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Are you prepared for a medical emergency?

Keep important information handy, such as an advance directive, a list of medications, and your emergency contacts.

We spend a lot of time trying to stay healthy. We exercise, eat right, and get check-ups and screenings. But how many of us take the time to prepare for a medical emergency, with the right information and equipment handy? “Most patients I see are not prepared to come to the emergency department [ED]. They don’t know their medical problems. We’re lucky if they carry their medications list,” says Dr. Kei Ouchi, an emergency medicine physician at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Maybe we’re unprepared because of a natural tendency to think that medical emergencies may happen to others but not to us. But consider the numbers: in 2009–2010, about half of all adults ages 65 or older went to an emergency department, according to the CDC. “The number of older adults coming into the ED is increasing, especially near the end of life — 75% of older adults come to the ED at least once in their last six months,” Dr. Ouchi says. Those odds may make you want to think twice about preparing for the unexpected.

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