What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is more common than most people realize. In the general population, approximately one person in a hundred has epilepsy. Although epilepsy is often considered a disorder of childhood, it can begin at any age, and in some people, it persists from childhood to old age. Epilepsy can affect people of all ages and all nationalities. The causes of epilepsy vary according to the age of the onset of epilepsy.
Diagnosis of Epilepsy
The rate of newly diagnosed epilepsy is higher in elderly people than in middle-aged adults. The elderly are more sensitive than younger people to a variety of mental, physical, and environmental stressors. They are also more likely to develop many medical, neurological, and psychiatric disorders, some of which can make seizures more likely to occur. Such disorders include metabolic changes such as very high or very low blood sugar, very low sodium levels, and endocrine disorders (for example, diabetes, thyroid or parathyroid disorders).
Epilepsy – A Caregiver’s Perspective
Caring for a person with epilepsy requires knowledge on a variety of topics. For example, it is important that you know the type of seizure the person you are caring for has so that you are knowledgeable on the proper first aid for that seizure. It is also important that you understand the treatments they are receiving and are aware of the other treatment options. The support and care of a caregiver can be invaluable in helping the individual to make informed decisions, to maintain a positive attitude, to adhere to medical advice, and to live a full and rewarding life.
Caregivers can be of great assistance in managing seizures and in ensuring the safety of the individual during and after the seizure. Most seizures last from seconds to minutes. This period results in the person temporarily experiencing fatigue, confusion, and/or a headache. Often the person will want to sleep. Talking reassuringly and staying with the person until he or she is re-oriented is important.
Promoting Well -Being
A person who has been diagnosed with epilepsy may experience a range of emotions such as anger, frustration, and depression. Concern for the future and negative responses from friends and family can leave a person feeling vulnerable and alone. Depression is more common in individuals with epilepsy than it is in the general population. This could be due to psychosocial factors, the seizures themselves, and/or to seizure medication. As a caregiver, it is important to realize that mood changes can be a side effect of seizure medication or that a person who is distressed or is experiencing isolation may act out negatively as the result of frustration or anger. Being patient, encouraging the person to talk about his or her feelings with someone, and recording behavior changes to provide to the doctor, are all helpful ways to promote well-being. If a person with epilepsy seems uncharacteristically depressed, encourage a visit to the doctor to discuss these feelings. The doctor may make adjustments in the seizure medication in order to determine whether these issues are due to medication side effects.
Working With the Health Care Team
Caregivers can assist the individual in complying with medical direction and can be actively involved in communicating with health care professionals
Monitoring Epilepsy Seizure Symptoms
While some people are not able to identify specific events or circumstances that affect seizures, others are able to recognize definite seizure triggers. It is useful to monitor seizure triggers so that seizures can be avoided. Caregivers can assist an individual with epilepsy by helping to assess what triggers seizures and by helping the individual to avoid them.
Some common seizure triggers include:
- Forgetting to take prescribed seizure medication
- Lack of sleep
- Missing meals
- Stress, excitement, emotional upset
People with epilepsy can participate in most recreational activities and sports. These activities can enhance well-being and maintain health. There is some evidence that regular exercise may improve seizure control. Some activities are considered too dangerous and others pose some risk due to the possibility of head injury. Participation in recreational activities and sports should be discussed with the doctor.
Supporting the Person within the community
Caregivers can also facilitate the development of a support system for the individual within the community that involves family, friends, neighbors, and professionals.
Disclaimer: The above information has been prepared by a qualified medical professional and may not represent the practices followed universally. The suggestions listed in this article constitute relatively common advice given to patients, and since every patient is different, you are advised to consult your physician, if in doubt, before acting upon this information. Lupin Limited has only facilitated the distribution of this information to you in the interest of patient education and welfare.