Aging Well

Emergency One-page Summary

In the event of a trip to the emergency room alone, it can be helpful--even life-saving--to have a single sheet summary with your primary health conditions, meds, allergies and phone number of a family member or friend.

Posted Updated
Example Emergency Sheet
Liisa Ogburn

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, forty-five percent of 60+ year olds are single. Furthermore, according to AARP, over twenty percent, or 8.6 million people over 65, are at risk of becoming an "elder orphan." (These are senior citizens who do not have a spouse, significant other or children to help care for them as they decline with age.)

What does this mean in the event of an unanticipated trip the Emergency Room (not that any trip is anticipated)?

It means there is a fair chance someone might end up in the ER alone and not entirely able to answer critical questions posed by the admitting ER physician, such as "What are primary health conditions we need to know about to best treat you?" and "What meds are you taking?"

This is why, particularly if you are a fragile senior or have Mild Cognitive Impairment, taking the time to thoughtfully put together a one-page medical summary can be critical in the event of an emergency. This is a living document that changes over time and should be kept in your wallet and on your fridge. (For those who don't know, the fridge is the first place where Emergency Medical Service will look for this information in the event of an emergency requiring them to enter your home).

This sheet should include the following:

  1. Full name
  2. Birth date
  3. Health insurance carrier and identification numbers
  4. Preferred hospital (if most of your healthcare has been handled at a particular hospital, even if it's a little further, indicate that)
  5. Emergency contact (If you have an adult child living outside the area or Healthcare Power of Attorney, list their name and phone number. Try to have at least one local contact. Make sure anyone on this list know they are and also, importantly, what your health status is and wishes are.)
  6. Short list of most relevant medical conditions
  7. List of current medications
  8. Allergies
  9. Primary care physician and their 24/7 phone number
  10. Critical specialists and their 24/7 phone (not all specialists; just any involved in critical needs, such as a cardiologist, oncologist, etc.)
  11. Current pharmacy and phone number, in the event they need to prescribe any medications at discharge

If relevant, mention whether you have in place a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or Medical Orders for Specific Treatment (MOST), both of which should also be posted on the fridge.

None of us have control over when or what kind of situations we might find ourselves in, however we can be more prepared in the event one happens and we are alone and unable to speak for ourselves.


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