Something you might not know is that the name of my blog, Life Of Pippa, comes from anecdotes from my friends. Ever since I became chronically ill, I’ve found myself in countless bizarre life situations that it often seems only I could end up in… and these became affectionately christened by my nearest and dearest as ‘Life Of Pippa’ moments.
I’m the first one to joke about the tricky situations I frequently find myself navigating as a result of my condition, but the truth of the matter is that when disability is a big part of your life, you’re much more likely to encounter troublesome situations just from going about your day. Whether it’s physical barriers, unsafe environments, or stigma from the people around us, the unfortunate reality is that disabled people run an increased risk of encountering serious or dangerous circumstances.
What these situations might look like will vary between individuals, but today I wanted to share five of my own tips for being prepared for disability-related emergencies… based on my own lived experiences of chronic illness.
Keep a bag of essentials on your person
This first tip is a quick and easy one to implement – keep a small kit of essentials with you when you’re out and about. You never know when you’re going to need every day medical items like plasters, dressings, tissues… and these days, an abundance of hand sanitiser is an essential as well. Most chronically ill people I know will also be quick to recommend always having water and a suitable snack in their bag, and you don’t need to tell me twice to have emergency biscuits on stand-by.
There have also been some really important conversations taking place around women’s safety at the moment, and it’s worth signposting that there are lots of personal safety alarms and equipment that can be discretely carried around or even attached to mobility aids. It’s also well worth familiarising yourself with how to flag an emergency using your smartphone – as this post explains, if you press and hold the side button of your phone, you’ll see the option to make an Emergency SOS call. If you keep holding the same button down, a countdown will start and an alert will sound.
It also goes without saying that it’s always a good idea to keep extra medication on you – not just anything you’re likely to need during the time you’re out of the house, but anything you might need at all that day. There’ve been more occasions than I care to admit where I’ve found myself held up whilst out of the house, had to miss a dosage of medication, and found myself unwell as a result. Take this as a sign to treat yourself to one of those snazzy rainbow pillboxes and make sure you’re prepared, gang.
Carry clear instructions for lifesaving medication
Whilst it might be easy to remember to carry essential medications about with you, something I’m prone to forget is that in the event of an emergency, non-disabled people (muggles, if you will), might not necessarily know how to actually use the things you need. As an example, I carry EpiPens for severe allergies. I’d like to think more people than not know how to use them these days, thanks to increased access to First Aid training, but how could you possibly guarantee that those nearby during a medical emergency belong to that group of people?
If you have a smartphone, utilising the Medical ID settings is an easy and accessible way to carry a medical record of sorts that professionals can access in an emergency without needing to unlock your device. However, I’d also recommend printing out clear and concise information or instructions for your medication or supplies – if you’re unable to communicate in that instance, what do people need to know?
As a brief interlude, if you read that paragraph and realised your own EpiPen knowledge is lacking, this page serves as a quick and easy refresher course. Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh, my loves.
Establish a communication code with family and friends
If you live independently, you’ll know first-hand just how important it is to maintain regular communication with family and friends – not only for your own sake, but for theirs as well. I live by myself, and that fact means that if I don’t respond to a call or a message from my nearest and dearest within a couple of hours, they will assume that something terrible has happened.
Clearly this is for my own good and is no doubt coming from a good place, but I don’t mind telling you that I’ve had to stage something of an intervention for this over the years. The idea of friends and family trying to get hold of me and/or assuming the worst if I don’t reply was causing me all kinds of stress and forcing me to feel glued to my phone screen, so my proposal instead was for a daily text check-in. If they don’t reach out to me first, I’ll be proactive in reaching out to them and letting them know that all is well – even if it’s just by sending a quick emoji rather than using the cognitive energy to write a full message on a bad symptom day.
If you’re out and about on the regular, something else you might find useful is to establish a code-word that you can easily send if you’re in need of urgent help. It’s all about finding what works for you and your own situation, especially when you have an energy-limiting condition and communicating isn’t always easy, whilst being mindful that regular communication is essential for safety reasons… no matter how independent you may be.
Always have a contingency plan
Something I learned the difficult way is how important it is to have a back-up plan for when things go wrong. It’s all well and good thinking to yourself that you’ll just deal with whatever happens in the moment, but let me tell you, the future you stranded in the middle of town because a rogue bolt from your power-chair has spontaneously launched itself off the frame and straight into an innocent passer-by probably wouldn’t agree. That was a really fun day.
Contingency plans will look different for everybody. If you have mobility aids you use when out and about, it’s well worth looking into insurance and breakdown cover – I use the one provided by the mobility brand where I got my power-chair, but there are loads of tailored services if you look around online. If you deal with chronic pain or fatigue, your contingency plan might be as simple as strategising where you can find the nearest quiet spots or places to sit, or figuring out how quickly and easily you can get back home should you need to. It might sound silly to try and pre-empt all of this in advance, but your future self will thank you for saving some of the stress and/or cognitive exertion you could be facing in that moment.
Know how to make a serious injury claim
Finally, and on a similar note to the above, another element of the disability life I’ve previously been naïve about is the process of making a serious injury claim in the event of an accident or emergency. If you’ve been in a situation that’s left you or your family with a long-term injury, I imagine that experience will have been all-consuming. The last thing you’d want to do afterwards is exhaust your cognitive and emotional energy trying to navigate a complex system full of administrative faff (you all know how I feel about faff)… which is why I wanted to introduce you to Thompsons Solicitors and their approach to serious injury claims.
The team at Thompsons Solicitors take a much more personal and nuanced approach to serious injury claims made by individuals and their families. Not only do they have expert lawyers to assist with the legal side of the process – they can also signpost you to medical specialists who are on hand to look at the social impact of the injury on a person’s life. They provide access to client support coordinators, case managers and specialist health and care professionals, to ensure people can access the very best medical care, rehabilitation, adapted accommodation and specialist equipment as soon as possible. Most impressively to me, they always prioritise applying for interim payments which will provide financial support until a case is settled – something I reckon would be absolutely crucial for many disabled people who face numerous additional costs in everyday life as a result of their disability. There’s further information about Thompsons Solicitors serious injury claims here, and you can also find real life case studies from their clients here.
If you have any tips of your own for disability-related emergencies, please do feel free to share them in the comments. They may well come in helpful for somebody else!