County offers seniors free aids to alert paramedics

February 19, 2003|By Alyson Klein | Alyson Klein,SUN STAFF

When Vi Wirtz, an 83-year-old Parkville resident, suffered a stroke, she could not speak clearly enough to give important medical information to paramedics. Instead, she directed them to the bright orange card on her refrigerator that contained everything the emergency responders needed to know - her medical conditions, medications and contact information.

Last week, Wirtz joined Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a Fire Department paramedic unit and staff from the county's Department of Aging to announce a program for free distribution of the orange cards and pill organizers. The event was held at Bykota Senior Center in Towson.

"Orange cards are a great tool when the paramedics respond. It takes a lot of stress off the patient and provides us with all the information. It cuts our treatment time in half," said David J. Murphy, division chief of Emergency Medical Services for the county fire department.

The pill box allows seniors and others taking several medications to organize their pills for the week by providing a separate section for each day and time.

"If I didn't use the pill box, I wouldn't be able to keep track of my medications," said Lois Boyd, a retired nurse who volunteers for the Department of Aging.

The department recommends that the boxes be used in conjunction with the orange cards or a list of medications so that paramedics can identify the pills a patient is taking. The cards and pill boxes will be available at the county's 18 senior centers, area Epic pharmacies and private businesses that participate in the program. Emergency personnel also will give them to patients.

"This is critical to seniors' ability to stay in their homes rather than going into a supervised situation," said Smith.

Wirtz agreed, saying, "Seniors appreciate that they can do things on their own. This gives you a feeling of independence."

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