Former Extension Educator, Family Life
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
First, let's start with a little history about the program. In doing some research I found that the word LIFE, in Vial of Life, stands for Lifesaving Information for Emergencies. I had never heard that LIFE was an acronym. But it makes complete sense because that is exactly what this program is all about. It is having your necessary information prepared and ready to go in the event of an emergency.
Something else I learned in doing research about this program is there is a Vial of Life Project Charity and they have not copyrighted the name so local agencies can sponsor their own Vial/File of Life program. Though this program is often encouraged for older adults, it is a great program for anyone in the family.
Do you have a Vial of Life in your community? They are often sponsored by local sheriff's offices, TRIAD groups, Parish nurses, or possibly hospitals. You may have to search your local community or ask around to see. Sometimes the program is called File of Life as well.
What exactly is the program? It is really pretty simple. You have a Medical Data Form that you fill out that includes your name, address, age, emergency contacts, and health care info including:
- Health care plan/policy
- Hospital preference
- Doctor's name/phone
- Medications (dosage, where they are in home)
- Major illnesses
- Past Medical History (make sure to include anything you would want someone to know – if you have a pacemaker, etc.)
- Blood type
- Have you signed a donor card?
- Do you have a living will? (If yes, attach)
- Do you have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), a MOST (Medical Order for Scope of Treatment or a POLST (Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) from your Doctor?
- A place to date when you last filled it out or revised it
*Some programs may have more or less info on the Medical Data Form
This piece of paper is then folded up and placed in either a prescription bottle on the top shelf of the refrigerator or placed on the outside of the refrigerator in a clear plastic sandwich bag where an emergency responder can go directly to it and know what it is, grab it and go. It should be clearly marked with a label; it can be a label from the Vial of Life program or one that you create yourself, just as long as it catches someone's attention in the event of an emergency.
There are other items that you could include in your Vial/File of Life in addition to the actual medical information:
- Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) which defines who can make health decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot express your own wishes
- Recent picture of yourself
- Anything else that you think could be pertinent information in the event of an emergency
Once everything is in the prescription bottle, you can put it in your refrigerator, or you can simply put it in a clear sandwich bag and adhere it to the front of your refrigerator for easier access and visibility.
The Vial of Life form is a useful way to keep all of your medical information in one place. It is important to revisit the form and update it as health changes or prescriptions change. You could even make a copy of the form and carry one with you in your wallet/purse and your glove compartment in your car. Then you will always have your important medical information with you in the event of an emergency.
If you want to obtain a Vial of Life - check around your local community for the kit. If you cannot locate the program, no worries, you can download the form from the internet or simply write out the necessary items on a sheet of paper and place them in a marked bag on the front of your refrigerator as previously mentioned.
Here are two samples that you can download that I have seen some communities that I have worked in: