Epilepsy in the elderly -Signs and symptoms

Epilepsy in the elderly

What comes to your mind when they think of an epileptic seizure? Most people think of a person who suffers from sudden, uncontrollable convulsions. Most people do not know what to expect when they come across a person living with epilepsy and believe myths. This often causes them to panic or become nervous, especially if someone they know has been diagnosed.

Whether someone you love lives with epilepsy or you are faced with someone having a seizure, you need to be prepared. Remember, there is nothing to fear. With a little knowledge of simple first-aid, you can help keep the person safe from harm. But in order to help them, you first need to understand the signs of an epileptic seizure.

Epilepsy is more common than you know. In fact, one in 26 people in the world lives with the condition. What’s more? It is most prevalent in people aged 60 and older. It is important to read the signs so you can notice them when someone you love – be it a parent or grandparent, exhibits them.

Uncontrolled seizures pose a safety risk (e.g., falls, driving accidents, etc). They also have a huge effect on their mood causing disorders such as anxiety and depression. However, on the bright side, effective and early treatment can improve their quality of life.

SIGNS OF EPILEPSY IN THE ELDERLY

Firstly, remember that there are several neurological and physiological conditions/disorders that exhibit via seizures. It could be caused due to a high level of sodium in the body, a brain injury, or a brain tumor.

A seizure can also occur when someone suffers from meningitis or other similar conditions. Some people suffer from seizures due to drug abuse. Distinguishing whether a person is seizing due to the conditions mentioned or due to epilepsy is paramount in helping them overcome it.

Here, are five important signs that an older adult may be having an epileptic seizure:

Repetitive hand movements, lip-smacking, or jerking

Try noticing early signs that involve repetitive movement. For example, notice if someone keeps compulsively tapping their watch, fumbling with their hands, or moving too much. Lip-smacking without any reason is another tell-tale sign. Mostly these are actions that are quite normal in our day-to-day lives.

But what makes them a sign of epilepsy is the repetition aspect. How many times in a day or how many days the person has been following that same pattern would confirm if it’s an early sign of epilepsy or not.

However, it’s not as easy to detect as it sounds as these patterns usually last for a minute or less. So if you notice any such signs and find yourself confused, the best is to just talk to a professional so you’re no longer in the dark. 

Memory loss or an episode taking place pretty often 

The time period after a seizure is called the postictal period. Young epilepsy patients usually recover from a seizure within seconds to a minute. But longer recovery time is more prevalent in older adults as opposed to younger people. The recovery phase for the elderly could range from hours to days.

You’ll notice such people usually staring into a blank space looking confused and usually with no memory of what just occurred. 

So try and notice a closed one is forgetting too often. More so, events that may have just taken place. Once you do, talk to their doctor and get it treated, especially if you see a repetition of these episodes. 

Being confused all the time 

As people age, they no longer are as jovial, active, and chatty as they once were. This is natural, as the elders are now dependent on their families. Their social circle decreases and their once-active lifestyle seems to appear lull. Given the physical, social, and other changes taking place, it is natural for the elderly to slowly become withdrawn to an extent.

However, massive behavioral changes are what you need to look out for. It could be a chatty and jolly person suddenly being all quiet and lost. It would begin to seem that the person is disinterested or even depressed. 

Most importantly notice if this happens in patterns as mentioned in the point above. Are they depressed one moment and suddenly happy the next? If so, talk to a doctor and observe abnormal behaviors.

Sudden, uncontrolled falls

Just like children fall when they begin to learn to walk, play and jump, the elderly fall too. They are no longer as steady on their feet as they used to be. They may miss a step, slip in the shower or become weak in the knees. Given their age and fragility, falls are always a concern.

This is even more true if it happens in an uncontrolled space, such as the park, the bank, on the street, or in the market. You will notice symptoms such as breathlessness, palpitations, or dizziness in a case related to a heart or brain issue. If your loved one suffers from such episodes, then it’s the best thing to contact a doctor right away.  

Convulsions.

Just as young kids suffer, older adults also suffer convulsive seizures. Convulsions involve a loss of control of the body and violent jerking of the arms and feet. It could also include twitching of muscles and the head. While most seizure-related disorders include convulsions, epilepsy is one wherein convulsions occur repeatedly.

This could be over the course of a day, weeks, or months – during the day or at night. Convulsions can be dangerous for an elder, especially if they live alone. Having a senior citizen suffering from a seizure while cooking, while in the shower, or while driving could pose a risk to life. 

If someone you love suffers from seizures and lives alone (or even if they don’t), it is wise to get them an epilepsy seizure monitor. This will keep track of your loved ones and alert you when they are having a seizure so that you can provide timely aid.

While some seizure monitors are separate devices such as a medical bracelet, others are apps. For example, the Inspyre by Smart Monitor is the best seizure app for people living with epilepsy.

The app, once downloaded on your phone, pairs with your Apple or Samsung watch and detects repetitive shaking, akin to that caused by seizures.

If you notice a stranger having a seizure, don’t panic. Gently lead the person. to the floor and stay with them until they regain consciousness. 

Anyone having a seizure could be quite dangerous to themselves as well as those around them. Hence detecting early signs and treating them completely or being in control is of utmost importance.

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