Your Personal D.R.P.

Most organizations have a disaster recovery plan (D.R.P.) in place.  In its simplest form,  a DRP considers what could go wrong in the operation of the organization and determines what should happen. For example, if a fire destroys our office, how do we carry on?   Despite its name, disaster planning is less about the fires, floods and earthquakes that happen infrequently (thankfully!) and more about the planning for events like power outages that can be very disruptive.

Have you considered establishing your own personal DRP?  In the event that you could not function normally what would still need to take place to avoid undue disruption?

Imagine yourself temporarily incapacitated.  What still needs
to happen?

  • Is your medical and other critical personal information up to date and accessible?
  • Do your loved ones know where this information is and how to access it?
  • Are your emergency contacts on your MedicAlert file accurate?
  • Who else would you want to be notified in an emergency?
  • Do you have any pets that would require care?
  • Bills to be paid?
  • Have you thought about how key information such as passwords might be conveyed to trusted loved ones in an emergency?

While some find this type of planning unpleasant it does pay off in terms of reduced anxiety and worry down the road.  Everyone one of us will experience a disruptive live event at one time or another.  Think it through in advance and be prepared.

‘Sod’ 70

I recently had the privilege of attending a public talk on health aging, sponsored by MedicAlert Foundation Canada at the McMaster Health Forum in Hamilton.

The keynote speaker, Sir Muir Gray, a leading authority on health aging, spoke about today’s most common misconceptions about aging, especially the belief that those 70+ can do little to improve their health.  Having turned 70 this year, Sir Gray offered his own insightful observations along with scientific evidence that looked at how:

  • Biological aging has little effect until a person is in their 90’s.  Much of what we call ‘aging’ is a result of lifestyle choices;
  • Those aged 70 and older are still able to increase strength, stamina, flexibility and skills and there is substantial benefit to doing so; and
  • Even at age 70, there is much that can be done to prevent and postpone common diseases

Sir Gray also drove home the point that people must play a direct and substantial role in their own healthcare.  A really interesting exchange with an audience member closed the evening.  This attendee indicated that he was comfortable with his GP directing his healthcare – he didn’t have the time, interest or inclination and wanted to know if that decision was okay.  Sir Gray with his typical English directness said that if he was very lucky he might receive good quality care; otherwise direct engagement  — asking questions, researching treatment options and using ones own judgment — was essential in order to receiving high quality care.

This event’s topic and the audience’s keen interest in Sir Gray’s study really spoke to me about the importance of being one’s own health advocate.

If you are interested in learning more about at the work of the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, a program of the McMaster Health Forum, please see:

To your good health,
- Robert

Has your key medical information recently changed? Ensure that in an emergency, your first responders will have the information they need when it really matters. Continue your own healthcare advocacy by updating your MedicAlert medical profile at 1-800-668-1507.

Optimal Aging


How do we remain healthy, active and engaged as we age?  That is the foundational question that led to the creation of the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative at McMaster University.

There is no shortage of advice on how we should prepare financially as we age. 

A good amount of this advice comes from those with a vested interest in our savings – banks, investment and insurance companies.  Other advice comes from those with no financial interest in how we save – Government or public policy sources, for instance.  It’s usually easy to tell the difference between the two sources.

Likewise, until now, a good deal of available information on optimal aging has come from commercial sources who are trying to sell us something. Finding high quality objective, evidence-based information on optimal aging has not been easy.  Last week, McMaster launched the optimal aging portal, which allows us to search for information on healthy aging topics such as nutrition, exercise or maintaining mobility and to be directed to sources that have been identified as high quality and backed by evidence.  Each source is rated on various criteria and summarized in laymen’s terms.

I encourage you to visit the site.  Start here to get a perspective on what is currently available:

In a web universe filled with biased, inaccurate and even incorrect information, getting expert help is invaluable in allowing us more quickly and confidently locate the advice and resources that will help us age well.

- Robert

Own Your Health Information


In 1956, a 14 year old girl named Linda Collins cut her finger and sought treatment at a local hospital in Turlock, California.  Before receiving a tetanus shot, Linda received a small dose to check for any underlying sensitivity to the tetanus antitoxin. She was highly allergic to the tetanus antitoxin and nearly died as a result of the exposure. Her father, Dr. Marion Collins, who was away at the time on vacation, vowed that his daughter would never be vulnerable again.  Linda, he insisted, would wear identification alerting health professionals to her condition.  And MedicAlert was born.

What Dr. Collins discovered however, was far more profound. He demonstrated that when individuals assume greater ownership of their health information their overall well-being improves.


For anyone managing a chronic or life threatening condition, the value of investing time and effort in managing and understanding their health information is well understood – poor or incomplete data can have a significant effect on their health. But the same is true for all of us – we can all benefit.

But we treat our health information with indifference.  We assume that our health data is something our Doctor and her colleagues in the health care system will look after for us.  We are so accustomed to our paternalistic model of health care that we sometimes don’t notice the problem at all.  For instance, at a recent annual exam I was asked by the nurse when I had last had a tetanus shot. I couldn’t remember and rather than search through my file she simply administered another. I walked away a little perturbed that the office couldn’t manage to keep this information.  But isn’t this responsibility mine too?

file-and-mouse-200x300We keep better records on car maintenance than on their own health.  It’s odd when you think about it. We have grown accustomed to outsourcing ownership of our most sensitive personal information.   

Until recently this state of affairs was hardly surprising. Our health system generates an enormous amount of data whose primary audience is other health professionals. The information was difficult for individuals to get at and even if you could, difficult to interpret.

This state of affairs is beginning to change:

  • There is a wealth of resources available on the web that help us better understand our health information. Some due diligence is required – the web is rife with poor information and inaccurate information but good resources do exist.
  • Personal monitoring devices such as blood pressure and heart rate monitors are proliferating allowing us to generate our own health data.
  • Canada is in the midst of a revolutionary change to the way health information flows.  The implementation of electronic health records promises safer and more efficient care and an opportunity to build health information systems that allow individuals to play a far greater role in managing their own health information.

Thus we have better tools available to us every day to enable us to become more active participants in our own healthcare.  Try this:  On your next visit to your GP ask for your latest record and lab results.  Buy a file folder.  That’s all you need to start.


Robert Ridge is the President and CEO of the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation.  MedicAlert manages the emergency medical profiles of over one million Canadians and close to five million people worldwide.

What’s #GivingTuesday Anyway?

Most people know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But have you heard of #GivingTuesday™?

This year, the movement to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season has come to Canada and MedicAlert Foundation is proud to be involved in spreading the word.

#GivingTuesday ultimately celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support registered charities or non-profit organizations.

Being dubbed the “opening day of the giving season,” this year, December 3, 2013 is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.

As one of many charities who rally for your support, we’ve made it our mission since 1961 to protect and save lives by serving as the information link between Canadians and emergency responders during medical crises or other times of need. Your gift helps ensure emergency responders and hospital staff get critical medical information when it matters most –– and that those who live in financial hardship have the support they need through subsidized programs like No Child Without and Membership Assistance.

Join thousands of others and support those in need this #GivingTuesday. Visit us at to make a difference.

– Robert