File of Life Document Considered a Lifesaver for Older Adults

Recently, a resident of a senior housing apartment building was having a health emergency. And when such emergencies happen, the primary information first responders ask for are medications and the individual’s medical history. However, in this case, it got complicated when the prescription bottles were in Chinese and the resident did not speak English. The spouse was understandably stressed trying to communicate information to the emergency team. The Mystic Valley Elder Services Resident Service Coordinator who works at the apartment complex immediately went to the refrigerator and was thrilled to find both of the tenants’ File of Life folders, each with their own Chinese character on it. Through visual signals, the spouse was able to indicate which one belonged to her husband in distress. The town’s Fire Lieutenant stated, “These are lifesavers!”

The File of Life is a red, magnetic packet that contains important medical information about the individual as well as list contact information for their doctor, family members, insurance information and any other special circumstances that rescue personnel should know. It is designed to help the local fire department, paramedics, and emergency rooms obtain the necessary medical history and emergency contact information in an emergency. It is kept in plain sight, usually on a refrigerator.

It should include:

• Existing conditions or chronic illnesses

• Current medications (including over-the-counter medications taken regularly) with dosages and schedules

• Allergies to any medications and food sensitivities

• Regular healthcare providers (names and phone numbers), including the primary care physician and any specialists, along with the specific conditions each specialist is addressing

• Special dietary considerations, such as low sodium, gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian

• Communication issues, such as confusion, speech or hearing impairments, language preferences

• Emergency contact information for trusted family members or friends

To attain a File of Life folder, visit or call your local Fire Department or call Mystic Valley Elder Services at 781-324-7705 or email [email protected] to have one mailed to you.

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