Unexpected things in life come up. If they happen is oftentimes out of our control, but how we respond to them is. This month’s focus is on Emergency Preparedness.
First off, we need to define what an emergency is. Each person has a different threshold and for some, an emergency is locking your keys in the car, while others would save the term for natural disasters. Hopefully the strategies on this post will pertain to the full range of potential unexpected happenings, but is geared slightly more toward “out of the ordinary” occurrences. First off, it’s a good exercise to think through what types of emergencies may be most common for you. Sometimes this is geographic (the twisters in mid country, hurricanes on the east, earthquakes on the west), but can also be personal (the horse vaulter who may get thrown from a horse, or the mountain climber who may encounter scarce resources and frigid temperatures). Whatever the case is, think through potential barriers you may face and try to develop a plan to overcome these barriers.
Prepare.While we can’t prepare for every possible scenario, we can in general have some organization and structure to our medical needs in the event of an emergency. A large part of preparing is having a plan. This plan should include the following in general (get more specific as it pertains to your individual needs)”
1. Start by writing out your name and date of birth on a list of medications you are on and dosages. These can often change (the medications, not your name), so doing a quarterly evaluation of this list and taking off no-longer used medications, and adding new ones is important.
2. On the back of this list, write out your provider’s names, phone numbers, and institutions. In addition, write out your pharmacy’s name address and phone number.
3. Include next of kin and important people to alert in the event of an emergency on this list with their names, relationship to you, and phone numbers.
4. Include this sheet of information in your “box of supplies”, but also email it to a trusted friend/relative so that it’s both in electronic form, and someone else has it.
Box of Supplies. Akin to the “earthquake box” that native Californians are familiar with, people with diabetes should have a “medical box”. In this box, you should include:
1. Extras of all the medication you are on, that are not expired. Again, when you go through your list of medications quarterly, it’s good to take a look at this box and discard any expired or soon-to-be expired medication.
2. If prescribed Glucagon, include this in your box as well.
3. Extra supplies like syringes (even good if you are on a pump in the event of a pump malfunction or running out of batteries), extra batteries, sets, meters, and any other supplies you need.
Support. If I weren’t a psychologist, I may stop there. But I am, so I have to put in a plug for the psychosocial. Emergencies can be very stressful. It’s important in these events to try and stay calm. All the previous preparations can help with this. But having social supports can also help. Identifying whom you can ask for help if and when you need it is important. I remember a time when my significant other had a rough time following a very strenuous run with type 1 diabetes (a marathon!). I had a good friend who happens to be an endocrinologist dialed and patiently walking us through each step as I carried out the plan. Just knowing she was available helped calm me down, but even if I didn’t have her, I had his physician’s office’s phone number saved on the phone as well as identified family members that were available to help should we need it. So having pre-planned supports in place was important and helped both relieved my anxiety, and addressed his medical needs. Remember, we can’t always prevent random things from happening, but we can minimize their potential effects on our health by planning and preparation.
Dr. Diana Naranjo is a Clinical Psychologist who works at the Madison Clinic for Pediatric Diabetes at the University of California, San Francisco.