Senior Beat

How to be prepared, and organized, for an emergency

By Carol Higgins Taylor

Special to The Weekly

Being organized is a beautiful thing. While I am not the queen of the organizational hill, there are some things that take top priority in the “neat and orderly” division of life. T-shirt drawers and the canned goods cupboard can be all askew with few, if any, ramifications, but medications should be carefully managed. And this includes having an accurate listing of all prescriptions.

The File of Life is the perfect way to stay on top of your medication list. The File is a four-inch by three-inch red, plastic pocket that attaches to the refrigerator via magnetic strip and contains a person’s pertinent medical information, such as medications and dosages, doctors’ names, emergency contacts, and medical conditions. A red sticker for the front door signals emergency medical personnel to look for the File on the fridge.

If an emergency were to occur and you could not speak, the responding medical personnel would have a snapshot of your medical history by reviewing the File. Without it, EMTs would have no way of knowing your situation and treatment might be delayed. This could be life threatening.

Eastern Area Agency on Aging has Files of Life available and no home should be without one. The next time you hear a siren, remember that one day it could be coming to your door. Help the EMTs save your life by providing them with the necessary information.

Now, let’s say you have a File in place. You are confident that the EMTs will have a better chance to properly care for you – once the crew is inside your house.

Have you thought about what might happen if they can’t find your house easily?

Penobscot County Triad, an organization comprised of seniors, law enforcement and social service agencies dedicated to fighting crime and fraud against seniors, wants your house to be easily found in an emergency.

Have you ever gone to a new friend’s house only to drive right by it because the numbers were not visible? It is frustrating in a social setting but could be life-threatening in an emergency.

Triad has the long-standing 911 House Numbering Sign program. The inmates at Penobscot County jail make the 6-inch by 8-inch signs out of highly reflective materials, and strong aluminum for durability. The number signs can be placed on the house itself or can be purchased already bolted to a steel stake to put in the ground. Being so reflective, they are highly visible at night when hit by car lights. I have one and it is amazing.

The house signs are available by calling your town office. Cost is minimal and varies depending on whether you need just the number sign or the sign and the stake. If your town is not enrolled in the project, call Eastern Area Agency on Aging for assistance with getting your sign.

Now, there is one more handy, not-to- be-without item you can get from EAAA: the Personal Health Journal. Have you ever looked at your Medicare statement and thought to yourself, “I didn’t have that test done,” yet it was billed to Medicare? One way to check for mistakes, errors or fraud is to write down all medical appointments and procedures.

Then, when your Medicare statement arrives, compare it to your written list. The Personal Health Journal, a project of the Senior Medicare Patrol, is a free, bright pink booklet that has ample room to enter all medical information, making the task much easier.

Millions of dollars billed to Medicare is the result of fraud, errors and abuse of the system so keep track and report anything that looks suspicious. Don’t be afraid to speak up. A little diligence goes a long way in saving Medicare dollars.

EAAA is always a good resource for you. Call them at 941-2865 if you are interested in the File of Life, a house numbering sign, or the Personal Health Journal. 

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in Bangor. Email her at

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