Health safety in a bracelet
It was three short months after Nancy Sharma fastened a MedicAlert bracelet to her mother’s wrist that it was put to good use.
In July of last year, her 68-year-old mom Judy, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, was found by OPP wandering along a very busy highway between Markdale and Flesherton. Thanks to the MedicAlert bracelet Judy was wearing, the Grey County officer who noticed something amiss, was immediately able to identify her, glean medical information, and alert family.
At the time, Sharma was unaware her mom had slipped away from their Flesherton home. It wasn’t until she received calls from both MedicAlert and the police that she discovered to her astonishment that her mom was in a police station six kilometres away.
“At that time, mom was attending a Day Away program three days a week. Fridays were not her day to go, but she had it in her head she was supposed to be at Day Away that day and she had missed her ride,” said Sharma. “As far as I knew, she was still sleeping.”
Sharma had friends with MedicAlert bracelets because of severe allergies, but she was not familiar with a similar lifesaving service for those with dementia until a CCAC nurse suggested it for her mother.
“She said it was a great idea in case she decides to wander,” said Sharma. “I am so, so thankful (for MedicAlert). I am telling all of my friends. Everybody should have one really, just because it has your name, emergency contact information, and medications (and it’s) on your body. You might lose your purse or you may not have it with you, but the bracelet is always on.”
“I like that there’s a special clasp on it so my mom can’t get it off herself, so I don’t have to worry about her taking it off.”
MedicAlert is celebrating 55 years of “protecting Canadians when they need it most.”
MedicAlert Safely Home is body-worn identification for people suffering from various forms of dementia. It’s a link that connects a wandering person back to their family much faster than otherwise would be the case, said MedicAlert president and CEO Robert Ridge.
Should someone wander away from their home/caregiver, an emergency responder, police or a Good Samaritan can access the identity of an individual and a hotline number to call for health and demographic information related to that person, on the back of the bracelet/necklace.
“It’s reassuring to everyone involved,” said Ridge. “Obviously, for a family who has had one of their loved ones wander away, every minute that they’re away is a source of worry. For responders, they’re often at odds with what to do with a person they find, because the person may not be verbal or may not be able to express who they are or where they live. We have heard of cases where people spent a day or more at the police station because they couldn’t quickly be connected back to their loved ones which the MedicAlert program helps to do.”
There are vital components of MedicAlert that set it apart from other medical ID services; the first important differentiation being the level of integration between body-worn ID and the comprehensive health record on that individual, said Ridge.
“Also, when you enroll with MedicAlert, a medically trained specialist works with you to determine what information is needed to complete your medical profile, which is particularly valuable when there are complex medical conditions.
“A medical specialist will spend the time on the phone to work through what essential information needs to be known in an emergency, and then code that information in terminology and abbreviations that emergency responders can rapidly use. Emergency responders are not interested in the person’s full medical history, they just need to know snippets of information that are crucial in treating that person right away.”
For example, if someone has a reaction to drugs or a procedure typically given in an emergency situation, or if a person has a pacemaker which may prevent certain diagnostic procedures from being conducted, these are critical details for emergency responders, said Ridge.
More and more people are turning to MedicAlert he said.
“We’re also seeing people, as they age, are starting to take more responsibility for their own healthcare; they want to be become more engaged as a healthcare consumer than perhaps was the case in the past. In essence, that’s what MedicAlert does.”
MedicAlert is also beneficial to those suffering from any kind of heart or cardiovascular condition, those on certain medications, or with a history of stroke, or with any kind of medical implant.
“There are literally thousands of different conditions represented in our data base.”
“In the plus 55 demographic, the more common situation would be that there’s multiple conditions that are expressed by the individual – and then of course our job is to help the person decide which ones absolutely need to be known when they can’t speak for themselves.”
When people think of MedicAlert bracelets, the original grey ones come to mind, however, a visit to its website shows how the symbol of life-saving medical identification has evolved into fashionable items of jewellery.
“MedicAlert members only get the benefit they need when they’re wearing some kind of ID 24/7, and I think what we learned over our 55-plus-year history is not everyone wants to wear the same piece of jewellery every day, 24 hours a day,” said Ridge. “So we’re trying to give people a choice as to how they present that information.”