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What Is A Vial Of Life Program?

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If your senior parent or another family member had a medical emergency and were by themselves, they might be unconscious or confused. If so, who would provide the important medical information that EMS personnel need in an emergency situation?

Even if they are awake and aware, people don’t always remember details in a time of crisis. This is when the free Vial of Life kits can save a life!

If you’ve never heard of this program, you’re probably wondering what is a vial of life? The Vial of Life project provides a senior’s medical history and other vital information to emergency medical personnel so they can administer potentially life-saving treatments. The free Vial of Life kit consists of a medical information form, plus decals to let responding emergency medical workers know this information is available.

“The Vial of Life is designed to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself. The vial contains important medical information that can assist emergency personnel in administering the proper medical treatment.”

Alameda County Fire Department (discovered on

In this article, we’ll further explain the Vial of Life program, how someone joins, and how the whole thing works.

What Is A Vial Of Life Form?

The Vial of Life is a long-running program that’s especially utilized by senior citizens. It’s sometimes referred to as an acronym such as the Vial of L.I.F.E. kit with LIFE standing for Lifesaving Information for Emergencies. 

As that acronym explains, being a part of the Vial of Life program means that if an emergency ever occurred and the senior was at home alone, emergency personnel could still learn about the senior’s vital medical information.

This includes which conditions the senior has as well as other pertinent medical information such as the list of medications they are taking and specific drug allergies.

Read our article, How To Build An Emergency Kit For Seniors.

All this info is available on a senior’s Vial of Life form, which they must fill out in its entirety to enroll in the program. We’ll talk more about enrolling in the next section.

The Vial of Life program is free according to the project’s website, although, if you choose to order the red Alert decals to place on your fridge and front door, there is a nominal cost ($5.00 USD in 2023) . Even for time-strapped caretakers, it’s worth getting your senior parent or loved one enrolled as a member of the Vial of Life.

We hope that your senior will never have to use this service, but if they do, the Vial of Life could very well save their life!

How Do You Get A Vial Of Life?

Joining the free Vial of Life entails mailing out a completed form with the senior’s medical data, as we mentioned before. Here is that form, courtesy of the Vial of Life website.

NOTE: You do not have to join the program if you prefer not to.

The website also allows you or your senior to quickly print out the form on the spot. You can also print out the decals, If you do not use a color printer, however, you’ll need to find some way to highlight the form and decals with red coloring so medical personnel don’t waste precious time in an emergency.

What Should Be In A File Of Life?

The information the form requests is as follows:

First and last name, including a middle initialStreet address, including city, state, and zip code
Date of birthPhone number
GenderSocial security number
Denture useIdentifying marks
Whether they can speakLanguage they use if English isn’t their native language
Current and past medical conditions or chronic illnessCurrent medications, plus frequency and dosage
Hair colorEye color
Blood typeReligion
Hearing difficultiesVision difficulties
Allergies to medicationDoctor’s name and phone number
The last time they were in the hospitalHealth insurance policy information
Emergency contact information for one to two contactsAny special instructions

The Vial of Life website recommends filling out the information as clearly and legibly as possible. You want emergency personnel to be able to read the info on the form.

If the senior in your life struggles with using writing instruments, don’t push them to complete the form. You can do it with them. You’d ask the questions, wait for their answer, and then write down the response.

Be as complete as possible in the information you provide. You want emergency personnel to have all the important details on your senior parent or loved one’s health.

Do keep in mind that the sheet is double-sided, so don’t forget to fill out the back!

Once you send out the form, your senior will get two Vial of Life decals in the mail.

TIP: If you are in a hurry or just want to get the whole kit at one time, you can purchase a kit online.

The program recommends updating the form as your senior’s health needs change. You can either print off another copy and write out all the details again or use the Vial of Life website to make changes to the person’s virtual medical profile.

Where Should The Vial Of Life Decal Be Posted?

Once the Vial of Life decals (stickers) arrive, your first instinct might be to stash the decals in their bedside drawer or medicine cabinet, but this is not the correct protocol.

Those two decals are supposed to go in very specific locations immediately. This will aid emergency personnel in doing their job.

Here are the locations for the decals:

On The Fridge

The first Vial of Life decal goes on the front or side of the senior’s refrigerator. If you have to clear some space on it by moving magnets and their calendar, then please do so.

Place the decal higher up on the fridge. That way, if an emergency responder has to enter your senior’s kitchen quickly, they will be able to see the decal.

On The Front Door 

The second sticker / decal should be placed on their front door. The purpose of this decal is to tell emergency personnel that your senior is part of the Vial of Life program.

Once again, you want to put the decal higher on the door rather than lower. It is best if it is at eye level.

If you want to make a bigger display other than the decal, you can purchase the Vial of Life Refrigerator Magnet here.

Where Is The Vial Of Life Kept?

Okay, but where does the Vial of Life form itself go? That should also be located on the senior’s fridge.

The program’s website suggests carefully folding the form and putting it in a sheer plastic zippy bag. An alternative is to fold it and put it in a plastic vial or small plastic container inside the refrigerator. This should be kept on the top shelf.

Then put the decal on the bag and tape the bag to the senior’s fridge. Remember to put the second decal on, near or just inside the senior’s front door.

You can also put a recent photo of the senior in the baggie or container. Other important information to include in the Vial of Life container could be their living will, a DNR (do not resuscitate form (if those are your senior’s wishes), and EKG records. None of this is mandatory though.

How Do Emergency Personnel Get Into Your House?

All through reading this article, you’ve probably been wondering how emergency personnel will get inside a locked house if a senior falls or has called 9-1-1 for help. It won’t do much good for them to see that your senior is a member of the Vial of Life, if they can’t get inside!

According to the AgingCare forum, some adult caretakers will install a lock box that emergency responders can use to access the senior’s house keys and gain entry.

Yet in an emergency, there might not be time for even that. The first responders could have to break the door down to reach your senior and begin administering care.

Although no one likes having their front door destroyed, if that’s what has to be done so your senior gets care at the moment, then it’s a small price to pay.

Read more tips on how to create a senior friendly home.


The Vial of Life is a medical program for seniors. They (or you) fill out a form with their medical information and then stick a decal on the fridge and on their front door.

Emergency personnel will know where to find the senior’s medical details thanks to the Vial of Life decals. They can use this info to appropriately care for the senior even if the senior is unconscious or otherwise cannot respond.

It doesn’t take long to sign up your senior for the Vial of Life program, and again, it’s completely free. Having your senior enrolled in Vial of Life will give you peace of mind and lets them enjoy their independence.

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