Debbie's Story


Debbie gazes out the window. It’s a hot, sunny afternoon in the “Hammer” – the infamous nick name for Hamilton, Ontario where Debbie has lived for 30 years.

While it may be warm now, Debbie knows it’s not long until winter will come sweeping across the Niagara escarpment. For someone facing homelessness, it’s a daunting thought.

“I’m no stranger to difficult times,” the longtime MedicAlert subscriber says. “I’ve lived with asthma since I was a child, and type 2 diabetes for over 30 years. I’m allergic to latex and beta-blockers and have lived with depression for most of my life. More recently I’ve developed diabetic neuropathy which causes balance problems. I’m also living with hypertension and have thyroid medication because of my diabetes. And thanks to COVID and my auto-immune problems, I’ve been unable to work.”

It’s this latest set of circumstances that worries Debbie the most. It’s meant some hard choices and a lot of juggling.

“I’m facing an uphill challenge. I don’t have enough money to pay for food, so I am a regular at my local food bank. I struggle with paying for my prescriptions, let alone my rent. I’ve applied for housing assistance, but the wait list is phenomenally long. I receive the occasional support from my mom, but she has her own financial problems and some new health issues to manage.”

Adding to Debbie’s stress was the fear she’d have to cancel her MedicAlert subscription. “I felt like I was at the end of my rope. I was so worried about everything and I had such little control over what I could do. I couldn’t bear thinking I was going to lose MedicAlert. It’s been a lifeline for me.”

Thankfully, because of MedicAlert’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Action (IDEA) Program that helps individuals who may find it more challenging to access health care services for a host of reasons, Debbie was able to have her subscription subsidized.

“I was so relieved to learn MedicAlert has a program that can help me as I try to get over this hump in my life. Having the ID and the service makes me feel 100 per cent more protected. What am I going to do if something happens and I’m caught out during a medical emergency? I don’t want to be burden on my family, and I’m very independent, but my MedicAlert ID and the information about my medical conditions that are on my medical profile provide me with huge peace-of-mind.”

Being able to be a part of MedicAlert’s IDEA program is a big win for Debbie, who hasn’t had many wins as of late. Beyond her own challenges, Debbie recently learned that her mother has been diagnosed with dementia.

“I haven’t seen my mother since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s living in a care facility in Cambridge, Ontario and I cannot afford to go see her. I miss her dearly and I’d like to provide more care to her, I just can’t right now given my own issues.”

There’s a lot on Debbie’s mind these days. But the IDEA program has taken one worry off her plate for the next two years. “With my MedicAlert subscription assured, I can turn my mind to other things like housing. But I’m grateful that no matter where I end up, my MedicAlert protection comes with me.”