Thursday, 22 May 2014

Palliative Care

It’s timely that as I write this message, it is National Palliative Care Week. In recent months I have seen the passing of several people who have been a part of my life over many years and several have had long-term illness. The efforts of the palliative care teams cannot be downplayed and I know my friends have been in excellent hands as their journey’s progressed.

The importance of making known one’s end-of-life wishes is not to be taken lightly. Similarly, as our relatives and indeed, ourselves, age, making sure we are best cared for in our ‘twilight’ years is of upmost importance. This may include nominating someone as Power of Attorney and / or Guardianship should we at some stage become unable to make appropriate decisions about our own care.

In recent months, I have been caring for an elderly relative who has up until recently, been highly functioning. A bout of illness has changed that and I’ve been working within a challenging system to get the right help at the right time to ensure my relative is well cared for and appropriately managed. She lives alone and has the usual things to deal with along the way – bills, maintenance and chores, to name a few pressures.

Whilst very independent, she has refused in-home assistance, which I know would make her life a little easier, and provide some extra company, but to no avail. Unfortunately, she is not currently well enough to stay in her home, though I am hopeful she will recover enough to be able to return soon. Without an appointed Power of Guardianship / Attorney in place when she was well, her future medical care and management of finances, etc., is of some concern. I’m sure I am not alone in my apprehension as to the future of a loved one.

No matter what our situation, it’s important to ensure we have a plan for managing our future medical and other needs either from a palliative care perspective or gradual decline as a result of ageing. This is especially important if we are living with significant medical conditions. Perhaps National Palliative Care Week is a wake-up reminder for us all. We don’t know what’s in our future, no matter how well we take care of ourselves and it might be a good time to look ahead and see what we can do as individuals to best protect ourselves.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Cycling identification benefits

Most of us have wonderful memories of riding our pushbikes as youngsters, exploring the far-reaches of the local neighbourhood and often doing what we thought at the time were death-defying tricks and stunts.

For many, the freedom that comes with cycling has become more than a hobby that wears off over time as we get older. The warmer weather, combined with the recent Tour Down Under in Adelaide is sure to have encouraged a number of Australians to dust of their trusty bike, slip into some lycra and get their pedal to the metal. For me, it’s a gentler way to exercise than pounding the pavement!

The die-hard cyclists among us are out on the streets at all hours to get their freedom fix – and it’s not uncommon to see one or more riding as early as sunrise, late as sunset and most hours in between.

But the freedom that comes with cycling can also be a risk too. Many riders opt to leave their identification at home because on a bike, a wallet or purse becomes a bulky accessory. Others don’t want their ride impacted by annoying phone calls, so they don’t take their mobile phone either.

It is a sobering fact that on average, 35 riders are killed and more than 9500 are injured in Australia each year. In 2013, there were 46 deaths, and 15 in NSW alone. We are all very aware of the ‘conventional’ road toll count on a daily basis, but most of us are unaware of this level of death and injury that impacts cyclists.

Earlier this year in Queensland a male cyclist was found unconscious after colliding with a wheelie bin. Two cyclists were knocked off their bikes and left lying by the roadside with serious injuries in separate hit-and-run crashes on the same day in Sydney in January. In South Australia there have been a number of incidents where a cyclist has been found injured and unconscious on the roadside.

Every state and territory can offer similar stories when it comes to these vulnerable road users.

With no form of identification on these riders it has sometimes been difficult for emergency responders to know who they are and what (if any) medical conditions they might have. On the flip side, families are left anxiously waiting for news of their missing loved one who is well overdue in returning from a ride, and they don’t know where to start looking for them.

That dilemma is seeing a growing number of cyclists choosing to become MedicAlert members because they see value in the identification benefits offered – especially if the unfortunate should happen and they fall, or are knocked off their bike while riding alone and especially if they are knocked unconscious.

If we really thought hard about the many risks in life then most of us probably wouldn’t leave home for fear of never returning. For me, it is about understanding the risks and putting strategies in place to manage them as best we can. I always wear my stainless steel dog tag when cycling, ‘just in case’. MedicAlert Foundation is proud to be able to help those with a pedal passion to still enjoy what they love, knowing that our distinctive emblem can give them a voice should they not be able to speak for themselves.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Wear What Matters!

I am really excited to welcome you all to the start of our national Awareness Week campaign – Wear What Matters.

The campaign’s name comes from the notion that time and again our members tell us what matters most to them is being able to live their lives to the fullest in a safe and healthy way. We consistently get feedback that MedicAlert® membership plays an important role in making that happen so when it comes to wearing what matters – we are what matters - through our distinctive emblem and service provision.

There is still so much that our organisation needs to do, and Wear What Matters is one step in a long education process. Even though we have helped close to 300,000 people since 1971, an estimated one in every three Australians can also benefit from becoming a member.

It’s our responsibility to raise awareness of what people can do to stay safe and we are doing this by helping to tell the real-life stories of survival and the tales of courage from people like you. I’d encourage you to share your own personal story with us on our Facebook page or website, and potentially encourage someone to spring into action and also become a member.

Often people make the decision after they've survived a near-miss event and want to avoid a repeat performance – but I would rather people stop playing ‘Russian roulette’ with their lives and take proactive control to reduce the risks in their personal circumstance.

We are also using the Week to remind the general community to check the neck and wrist pulse points if they come across someone in trouble – because a MedicAlert member will have potential life-saving information on their emblem that can assist in an emergency, especially if they cannot speak for themselves.

It’s also appropriate to thank the many men and women who work in emergency services and across the entire healthcare sector for their support and commitment. We spend a great deal of effort every year working with these groups so that it remains front of mind to check for our emblem as part of their response actions.

Make sure to stay in touch with what is happening during the week through our Facebook profile and check out the website at to find out more, read some testimonials and play our great little Memory game.

If you are a MedicAlert member then this is your week and I encourage you to get involved, share your story, and most importantly have some fun – because when it comes down to it, living life to the full is really what matters most, isn’t it?


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The uncertainty of life

Like so many others Australians, I was shocked to see the devastation in Oklahoma, USA, after the tornado that recently ripped houses to shreds and destroyed lives in the blink of an eye. It turned what should have been a normal day at work and school into a living nightmare for those affected and it’s only one of many natural disasters.

What this incident reinforced to me is that bad things can suddenly happen to good people and life is fragile and uncertain one minute to the next. We are further reminded of this by the daily stories we see in the media such as vehicle traumas and other tragedies, including the Queensland floods and bushfires across many parts of our own nation earlier this year.

When we think about the dangers we face on a daily basis it’s almost enough to put us off going out of the front door in the morning! The reality is though, that life must go on and the one thing we all share is a collective need to live each day of our lives to the fullest. While we may never be able to remove all of the risks we face, we can take active steps to better protect ourselves and those we love.

I see that positive attitude time and again when I speak to MedicAlert members from across Australia who face a wide range of health issues and who take solace in the peace of mind that comes with being a member of our organisation.

Some choose a life moment to join, such as a newly diagnosed medical condition (like diabetes or a clotting disorder that might be a danger with the birth of a child). Maybe there’s an impending interstate or overseas trip on the agenda, or after a ‘near miss’ with a confused loved one who has wandered away from the family home and spent a cold and lonely night alone and in danger.

Whatever the reason, MedicAlert Foundation continues to reinforce the importance of our emblem in times of emergency or other need to a wide range of healthcare and other professionals. We want them to always look for our distinctive emblem which could literally mean the difference between life and death. If it’s helped you or a loved one even once, that’s priceless.

Sandra Turner

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Men's Health Week

Men’s Health Week serves as a timely reminder for us all to stop and give thought to the health of boys and men across Australia.

Many Australian males that I know often embrace the “she’ll be right” attitude to life, but when it comes to health issues all too often they are not alright.

Right from birth, boys suffer more illness, more accidents and die earlier than females. It’s sobering to learn that an Australian boy born in 2010 has a life expectancy of 79 years while a girl will on average, live to 84 years old. 

Accidents, cancer and heart disease account for the majority of deaths amongst Australian males, but this week should be a celebration of the good things that men bring to our community and a focus on what they can do to improve their health.

The MedicAlert team often hears stories about men who thought they were bullet-proof and only decided to wear one of our distinctive emblems after a near-miss or near-fatal incident.

Whether you've got a heart condition, take regular medication, have an allergy or some other medical ailment that healthcare professionals and emergency crews need to know, then use this week to turn thought into action and become a MedicAlert member as part of your personal risk-management strategy.

To me it is ironic that many men encourage their wives and partners to wear our distinctive Medical ID when they themselves should also be making the same decision and enjoy the same peace of mind.

Men’s Health Week is a reason to look out for your mates and loved ones and to give them a little nudge to better care for themselves. Life might be short but with some greater understanding and enhanced effort we can all be here for a while longer.

My parting thoughts to all men, young and old this week are; if something doesn't feel right or hurts, then get it checked – don’t wait and see if it fixes itself and always listen to your body because you're the one who can make the difference.

Sandra Turner

Monday, 27 May 2013

Addison's Disease Awareness Month

It was fortunate that I was able to turn a personal visit to Brisbane recently into an opportunity to attend and present at an Addison’s Disease Awareness Month event on Sunday morning.

The information session was well-attended by people who live with Addison’s Disease, as well as nurses, paramedics and trainees who were all interested in learning more about the rare and progressive disease that affects both men and women.

I was surprised to hear that diagnosis of Addison’s Disease is still an issue for some, as it was back when I was nursing quite some years ago. Perhaps it’s because the symptoms can be very non-specific and are often not easily detected.

A quick online search shows between one and six people per 100,000 population have Addison’s Disease, with symptoms including general lethargy, weight loss and dizziness when standing. Some also notice a change in skin colouring or salt cravings.

While vague symptoms can go some way to explaining why the disease can sometimes be missed by treating clinicians, one important symptom is a drop in postural blood pressure. That got me thinking; how many of us have gone to our doctor and had our blood pressure taken sitting down? For someone with untreated Addison’s Disease, there can be a significant drop in blood pressure from a sitting to standing position – so severe that it can lead to fainting. A simple check of the blood pressure on standing could be one step closer to achieving an accurate and timely diagnosis.

It was great to see that a number of people attending the event were MedicAlert members, because an Addisonian crisis (with symptoms such as extreme weakness, a serious drop in blood pressure and mental confusion) can be life-threatening.

I was also impressed with comments from a nurse and a paramedic in the audience who described our distinctive MedicAlert emblem as “gold” for healthcare professionals in an emergency situation.

We know the medical information engraved on the emblem can make a significant difference to treatment outcomes. For those with Addison’s disease it can quickly offer first responders information about the condition and flag the need for emergency intervention.

For more information about Addison’s Disease Awareness Month, visit www.addison’

Sandra Turner

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Four important points to consider when choosing a medical ID

We know there are a lot of different medical ID products out there in the marketplace and that’s why it’s important you have an understanding of the things to consider when making your selection:

  1. Will the medical ID be easy to find?
    Emergency personnel check around the neck and the wrist (pulse points) for medical IDs, so if it is not worn there it may be missed. Storing medical info in other places like on a USB with your keys may sound like a good idea, but is it? Will emergency personnel know where else to look – and will they have the time to do so? Do you think there will be easy access to plug in the USB and read the stored information in an emergency situation? Probably not!

  2. Does it look like a medical ID?
    Emergency personnel need to be able to identify that the product you’re wearing is a genuine medical ID. Keep it simple and don’t attach charms or other things to the bracelet or necklace.  With so many fundraising silicone bands available will your ID stand out as a Medical ID? Look for an emblem that is well-recognised and stands out from other jewellery (but it can still be fashionable). The international symbol for medicine (the rod & snake) is a great sign for emergency services that the wearer has a medical condition for them to be aware of.

  3. Is it easy to read?
    It’s critical that emergency services are able to read the information on your medical ID quickly and easily. Is the information clearly engraved or is handwritten? Is it legible? Can it be seen quickly or does it need to be removed from a protective case?  Can you turn over the medical ID to read the information or does it have to be removed from the person to read it? That could take precious seconds and there’s no guarantee it will be replaced in an emergency and may be lost.

  4. Does it provide sufficient information?
    Having all of the most relevant and critical information quickly available in an emergency is vital. Some medical ID products have only one condition listed, such as diabetes or allergy. This may be fine for someone who only has one condition but what happens if you have other conditions or are on special medication that emergency services may also need to know about? What about personal identification as well?

The genuine MedicAlert™ medical ID allows you to answer ‘Yes’ to all four questions. We’ve specifically designed our emblems to wear around the neck or wrist and have the internationally recognised symbol for medicine plus the words ‘Medic’ and ‘Alert’ on the front. 

Our medical IDs are custom engraved with the wearer’s most vital ‘need-to-know’ information on the back and are easily turned over without being taken off. More medical and personal details are just a phone call away via our 24/7 emergency hotline if needed.  MedicAlert Foundation also has an ongoing national awareness program to assist emergency and healthcare professionals around Australia to know to look for our medical ID’s.

How the MedicAlert™ emblem protects

While the choice is yours, it’s important that you have all the information you need to select the product that’s right for you. After all, it’s a decision that will help to protect one of your most important assets – your health.

You can view our products at

MedicAlert Foundation's International Code of Conduct reflects the values and standards we live by worldwide and ensures our emblems are easy to recognise, easy to read and easy to afford.