5 Things to Do if Your Elderly Parent Is Diagnosed with Epilepsy

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Rates of epilepsy are increasing among aging adults. In the U.S., 3 percent of seniors over the age of 75 experience symptoms of epilepsy. If your aging parent has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, there are several treatment options that may help you manage his or her condition. Ahead, discover five things you need to be aware of if your loved one has epilepsy.

1. Learn to Recognize Seizures When They Happen

If your parent has epilepsy, you need to know how to recognize seizures. For many aging adults, seizures are shrugged off as general signs of aging because many seniors don’t experience the stiff-limbed, tongue-biting seizures commonly associated with epilepsy. Instead, their seizures may be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer’s. Common symptoms include confusion, repetitive behaviors, staring blankly into space, dizziness, and unintelligible mumbling. 

Even though some types of seizures may not be as alarming as others, they can still be scary for family caregivers, and that kind of stress can have a cumulative effect. In Centennial, respite care is a great help to many families. Caring for a senior loved one can be overwhelming at times, which puts family caregivers at risk for burnout. However, an in-home caregiver can take over your loved one’s care, allowing you the time you need to focus on your own health, maintain a full-time job, or care for other members of your family.

2. Research Medication Options

When young people are diagnosed with epilepsy, they’re usually prescribed anti-seizure medications such as diazepam, ethosuximide, or gabapentin. Most seniors diagnosed with epilepsy have other chronic conditions, and anti-seizure medications can have unpleasant interactions with other drugs. They can also have side effects such as dizziness, which makes them especially risky for seniors, as it increases the risk of fall-related injuries. If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, talk to his or her doctor about appropriate treatment options. Weigh the positives and negatives and then choose the treatment that best suits your loved one’s health needs.

3. Understand Seizure First Aid

After your parent is diagnosed with epilepsy, it’s important to learn about seizure first aid. If your parent is having a tonic-clonic seizure (the most severe kind), the first thing you should do is ease him or her to the floor. Position your loved one on one side, as it makes breathing easier, then find something to support his or her head, such as a pillow or jacket. If your parent wears glasses, take them off, and if he or she is wearing anything constricting around the neck, such as a tie, remove or loosen it. If your parent has milder seizures, you may need to stay with him or her throughout the seizure’s duration. Ask your parent’s doctor about when to call 911. 

Aging in place can present a few unique challenges for older adults. Some only require part-time assistance with exercise or meal preparation, while others are living with serious illnesses and benefit more significantly from receiving live-in care. Centennial, CO, Home Care Assistance are leaders in the elderly in-home care industry for good reason. We tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual needs, our caregivers continue to receive updated training in senior care as new developments arise, and we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.

4. Know What Not to Do

Just as important as knowing what to do during a seizure is knowing what not to do. If your parent is experiencing a tonic-clonic seizure, don’t try to control his or her movements. You should also avoid placing anything in your loved one’s mouth, even if you’re worried he or she might bite or swallow his or her tongue. Seizures often restrict breathing patterns, but common techniques like CPR aren’t effective. Just wait for your loved one to start breathing again independently.

5. Manage the Triggers

Seizures increase a senior’s risk for injury and cognitive disorders, so it’s important to find effective ways to manage them. Many people with epilepsy have certain triggers that cause their seizures. If you can understand your parent’s triggers, you may be able to reduce seizure frequency. Common triggers include stress, poor sleep, and substances such as alcohol.

Epilepsy is one of many health issues that may arise as seniors age. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional senior care. Centennial families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place. If you need professional care for your senior loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at 303.957.3100.