Do You Live Alone or Know Someone Who Does?

Do You Live Alone or Know Someone Who Does?

If so, your life or theirs could depend on you
having a plan to get immediate help in a
medical emergency if the phone is out of reach.

Everyone who lives alone should have a plan for how to get fast help in a medical emergency. Age has nothing to do with it, and it’s not as simple as calling 911. You may think you’re invincible because you’re young and your phone goes everywhere with you. But you know it’s not always within arm’s reach. (Be honest; count the times when you can’t even find your phone until it rings.)

Let me tell you about two close friends from my former church who fell and couldn’t reach the phone and had no other plan in place for how to get emergency help.

STORY #1: Anyone can fall when they least expect it and break a bone and be unable to move. Glenda lived alone with some family in the area that gave her little respect and never checked on her, except for one loving niece. Late one night she got on a chair to reach something, lost her balance and fell, breaking her shoulder and landing in a way that made it impossible for her to reach her phone. She could only cry out for help, and it later seemed a miracle to both of us that her niece “just happened” to be spending that particular night with her, heard her aunt’s cries from the upstairs bedroom, and called 911. Otherwise, Glenda might have lain there for days before someone in church wondered why their favorite Deacon hadn’t shown up. After the accident, I encouraged her to implement some of the rescue strategies I was using.

STORY #2: Carol didn’t fare as well. She died this month because she didn’t have any kind of life-saving plan in place, except for a malfunctioning lockbox on her doorknob. Our mutual friend, Kirk—who has been tending our yards for a long time—told me months ago that she was having phone and email problems, which is how I lost touch with her. I asked him twice to tell her to call me as soon as this problem was resolved, but she never did.

When she didn’t answer the doorbell the day Kirk stopped by to see if she wanted him to do some yard work, he checked with the next-door neighbor. She hadn’t seen Carol for a while and knew nothing about her activities (typical of many neighbors today who keep to themselves). So Kirk called the Fire Department and asked for a wellness check They had to break in because the lockbox couldn’t be opened, apparently because Carol never thought to double-check if it was still working. All we know is that she was found unconscious on the floor, where she had apparently lain for a long time, perhaps days. No phone was in sight. Kirk saw them take her to the hospital but later learned she had died.

Carol was 90, but she didn’t have dementia and had plenty of money to cover any costs related to getting her phone and email fixed or putting a better fast-entry system in place, so this was a hard loss for me to accept. Aside from other practical steps she could have taken, I believe Carol died because she didn’t stay close to her family, who should have been keeping tabs on her because of her age and medical issues. But she also failed to know her neighbors and stay in touch with friends like me who cared about her. Any one of us might have gotten an early heads-up about whatever it was that she was dealing with at the time that caused her collapse and death. I would have been happy to call her every day to see if she was okay. (See below for who’s doing this for me now.)

How to Create a Life-Saving Plan
for Yourself or a Parent

During my 18 years of widowhood, I’ve learned how to deal with a host of problems related to home management, security, and personal safety. Here are the steps I’ve taken (not necessarily in this order) to be sure I can get needed help in a hurry for any reason:

Phones. I have a phone or cordless extension in every room of the house, and I carry a Tracfone® in my slacks or jeans pocket from morning till night. (I chose this option instead of a Medical Alert System because it’s a quarter of the cost and gives me an extra phone as well.) I also have a smart cell phone with a strap that I carry from room to room and with me in the car. Since I manage my personal and working life on my computer and nearby desk phone, (I use this phone only for GPS, texting, timers, and as a backup phone if my cable phone service is interrupted.)

Cell Phone Timer Alerts. Knowing I’m a fall waiting to happen, Mollie, my kid sister in California, came up with an excellent plan whereby she checks on me twice a day to be sure I haven’t fallen. She suggested we set timers on our phones to go off at two and ten o’clock my time. If I don’t text her within five minutes of when her matching timer sounds, she texts me to make sure I’m okay. If I should fail to respond, she will call me. If no answer, she will send someone with keys to check on me. (No way will I ever die like my friend Carol.)

Give Keys to Trusted Friends. My bachelor neighbor across the street and two families 15 minutes from my door now have keys to my house. What a comfort to know I have this support system in place if I need any kind of help.

Knox® Rapid Access System. A few years ago I talked to my fireman friend, John, when I had concerns about how paramedics could gain entry to my home if I couldn’t open the door. He suggested I buy an inexpensive Knox Box, which he would install on the side of my house near the front door. I chose the SupraMax Box available from, which holds the keys to my front door that are accessible to first responders with a special code the Fire Department has. Now someone can get to me without damaging my front door, take me to the ER if necessary, and then lock the house behind them. They also have my emergency contact info to give to Emergency Room staff. This was one of the smartest expenditures I ever made, and my Knox Box is my most comforting option for getting emergency medical help if I can’t get to the door.

Kidde AccessPoint KeySafe. This reviewer states that this is the best lock box available. (It costs about the same as a Knox Box and is made by the same company). When I learned that dispatchers have trouble knowing where a person is when they call 911 on a mobile phone or number associated with a voIP (voice-over IP service) or a phone connected to one’s internet service, I asked my local fire department this question: “What if I have a stroke that affects my ability to speak to give the 911 operator my address, or what if I manage to dial 911 and then faint?” They said I should create a “Safety Profile” on and register my three phone numbers and any other info I wanted them to have. (To see if Smart911 services are available in your area, visit this link and enter your zip code.)

Dear reader, I hope you will take my practical rescue and life-saving advice to heart, whether for yourself or for someone you love and worry about. Please forward this email to anyone you think will be helped by it, and let me know if any of my tips have been helpful to you.

First published as a Brabec Bulletin on July 5, 2023.

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