Single Baby Boomers as a whole are fiercely independent. We want to enjoy our family and friends and not burden them with our problems. During quiet moments, we may think about what would happen to us if we had an accident or other health problem, but we don’t dwell on it or develop a plan. We know we may need a ride after a medical procedure, so we plan for that, but there are times when our needs are unexpected.
Most of us list our relatives as emergency contacts even if they live on the other side of the country. We don’t consider that they don’t know anyone who lives near us who could offer help in our time of need. We have a contact list on our phones full of people we know, but will medical personnel call anyone even if they have and ICE-in case of emergency-notation by their name? I found I can communicate quite well and not remember anything later when I’m in pain so no one was called when I had a medical emergency and I was on my own in the emergency room. If this has ever happened to you, you know when you do have your wits about you, having a blank space in several days in disquieting and downright scary.
If you’re like me, you don’t want anyone to have to take time out of their day to wait with you in the emergency room, so you send them away. They try to check on you, but if you’ve left the hospital, don’t answer your phone or give them a key, how can they? They figure you’re asleep and doing well so they can call the next day. Yes, they care, but you’ve made it quite clear you can take care of yourself. Single Baby Boomers or singles of any age need to be able to accept another’s help without feeling they’re imposing. There will come a day when your friends need your help and you’ll be there to give it as graciously as they did. Give at least one friend your key. You can help them out by keeping theirs to use in case of emergency.
Photo credit: Visual hunt
Here are some tips on how to plan for emergencies when you’re alone anytime or anywhere. Gather the following information and keep it handy:
Names of your emergency contacts – It’s not enough to have them in your phone, keep them with your driver’s license or passport in your wallet, purse or a passport holder you wear around your neck for safe keeping.
Names and contact information of your doctors – If you don’t have anything else, this may be the most important piece of information because chances are good your doctors can provide the information needed as well as more details about your health history.
Birth date – Often medical records and insurance information are cataloged according to birth date. This can improve communication in an emergency or a crisis.
List of allergies – This is important if you have an allergy to certain medications or things, such as nuts or shellfish.
Blood type – You may need a blood transfusion.
Major medical problems – This includes such diseases as diabetes or heart disease.
List of medications – It’s vital a doctor know if you use blood thinners.
Cultural concerns / Religious beliefs – This is important if beliefs might impact care.
Insurance information – This includes Medicare, MassHealth (Medicaid) and third party coverage. You should know the name of the coverage and policy number.
Prior surgery – List past medical procedures such as cardiac bypass surgery.
Lifestyle information – Do you drink alcohol or use tobacco?
Assistive equipment – Do you use a cane, wheelchair, hearing aid, false teeth or other durable equipment?
Health care proxy – Designate another person to act as your patient’s health care agent with the authority to make all health care decisions for you should you become unable to make or communicate those decisions.
~adapted from Mayo Clinic Senior Health
You’ll also need to be prepared when you travel. Don’t be like me and just take off without informing anyone when and where you’re going. Plan ahead with the tips listed above and some additional information.
Enroll with the State Department – If you’re going out of the country go to https://step.state.gov/step/ and enroll your information when traveling abroad so in case of emergency your emergency contacts will be alerted.
Carry and share your itinerary – Carry and give your travel itinerary and contact information to your emergency contacts. If there’s a disaster in the area where you’re traveling or with your transportation, they can find out if you’re safe or be able to come to your aid.
Vaccinations – Make sure to be current on the vaccinations needed for the area of the world where you’re traveling. Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow Card) or other proof they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country. Before you travel, check the Country Specific Information on the https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html and contact the foreign embassy of the country to be visited or transited through for current entry requirements.
Insurance – Confirm your medical insurance covers you everywhere you travel or buy travel insurance. There are many companies on the internet offering policies for travelers and ex-pats. Remember there’s a difference between travel insurance and medical travel insurance.
Medications – Keep your medications in your carry-on in their original bottles. If you need refills or think there may be questions, have the prescription and a note from your doctor verifying you need the medication. Check to see if any of your prescriptions are illegal in the country you’re visiting.
Traveling with Disabilities – Before you travel visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html and enter a country or area to find information for mobility-impaired travelers in the Special Laws & Circumstances section. Many countries do not legally require accommodations like the U.S. It contains information on service animals, electrical information, the availability of assistive equipment and many other issues you may encounter.
This information can be entered on a spreadsheet or word document so it can be changed and will be easier to carry in your purse or wallet.
We don’t want to think anything will ever happen to us, but one day it will. It may not happen until you’re older and grayer, but it’s smart to have a plan. You’ve all the information you need. You just need to organize it and keep it with you. Your life could depend on it.
Continue the adventure!