By Lou Ann Pioli
Essex Area Senior Center Coordinator

I remember as a youngster seeing commercials and ads for medical alert bracelets marketed specifically to people with allergies or health conditions that medical personnel should be aware of in the event of an emergency. While this is still true, having identification with emergency contact information is important for every person of every age, regardless of our medical history.

I have a friend whose son-in-law was out of town on business. He had checked into a hotel, and after a day of meetings decided to go for a jog. He left his belongings in a locker at a local YMCA, and off he went. In a horrifying turn of events, he was struck by a drunk driver and killed. He had no identification on him. His wife, accustomed to having her husband call each evening to speak with her and their two young children, knew something wasn’t right when he didn’t call and wasn’t answering either his cell phone or his room phone at the hotel. It took several days before she was able to get answers and discover what had happened to her beloved husband. Since then, she has been a strong advocate for identification bracelets for everyone.

Even though I knew of this tragedy, I still told myself that since I and my elderly father, who lives with me, typically don’t venture off alone anywhere, and especially without my cell phone, we wouldn’t need anything like that. Then, a couple of years ago, my father was mistakenly dropped off at the wrong building in our complex. He knew he wasn’t in familiar surroundings, but being legally blind and confined to a wheelchair, he was searching for someone who could help him. I was frantic when I returned home from work, in the midst of a snowstorm, and did not find him there. More than an hour later, I saw someone wheeling him through the snow across our parking lot. I ran to the front door of our building and rebuked the gentleman for having Dad out in the storm instead of bringing the van down to our building. Dad was covered in snow and shivering. Imagine my surprise – and embarrassment – when this kind gentleman explained that he had been making a delivery in the other building and had seen my father looking lost.

Gratefully, Dad knew what building we lived in and was able to direct the gentleman to bring him home. But what if he didn’t know, or wasn’t able to communicate our address?

That very evening I went online and ordered my father and myself identification bracelets. I found one with an easy clasp and room for six lines of information, so it can include pertinent medical information as well as emergency contact information. I strongly suggest that everyone, especially our seniors, but any active adult or youth who may venture out without identification, look into this. Many companies offer bracelets, necklaces, or even “dog tags.”

Along the same lines, oftentimes in the case of an emergency with an unresponsive patient, even if their cell phone is available, more likely than not it is locked, and medical personnel cannot access identifying information. Thanks to senior van driver Mike McKenzie, I learned something about my smartphone that I never knew. Smartphones have a “Health” app that is free. On my iPhone, it’s a white square with a red heart in it. If you open it, you can enter pertinent emergency medical and contact information. Be sure to choose the option “Show when locked.” This will allow medical personnel to access your information, even if your phone is locked, in the event you are unable to speak or provide it yourself. Please take a few minutes and activate this life-saving feature on your phone, and encourage your family members and friends to do the same.

A few reminders from the senior center: Please join us for potluck on Wednesday, Aug. 29 at 11:30 a.m. (serving at noon). Admission is a dish to share (no desserts, please). On August 30 at 10 a.m., Lori Houghton, Vermont state legislator and village trustee, will lead a discussion during our Thursday Topics on issues facing today’s seniors. All seniors should plan on attending. Thursday Topics is free and open to the public.

The center will be closed, and senior vans will not operate on Monday, Sept. 3 in observance of Labor Day. Please call on Friday, Aug. 31 for rides needed on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Thursday Topics, September 6 at 10 a.m., will feature author Gunti Goncarovs who will discuss the raising of the Civil War era submersible, The Hunley. Since publishing his book, “Convergence of Valor,” Goncarovs has developed a presentation of the facts on which the book is based and has delivered it to Civil War roundtables, military museums and book fairs around the country. All are welcome.

For more information on Essex Area Senior Center, please visit www.essexvtseniors.org, or call Lou Ann at 876-5087.