Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by repeated seizures. While you might think this disorder would be difficult to miss, many seniors with epilepsy go undiagnosed because seizures can be difficult to recognize in seniors, as it’s easy to confuse them with separate health issues like dizziness and falls. Here, learn how to recognize epilepsy in seniors and how to provide effective care.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that disproportionately affects people over the age of 55. This disorder is defined by the recurrence of seizures. If a senior only experiences one isolated seizure, it’s unlikely he or she has epilepsy. If one seizure is followed by more, it’s possible he or she is experiencing the onset of epilepsy.
Epilepsy and Old Age
With most cases of epilepsy, the disorder presents during childhood or old age. The rate of epilepsy in seniors is increasing along with the senior population, which isn’t surprising, since this condition is related to the neural and physiological changes that occur with age. When seniors are diagnosed with epilepsy, it’s usually caused by strokes, degenerative disorders, metabolic changes, and brain tumors. Strokes, the most common cause of epilepsy in the elderly, are caused by reduced blood flow, and when blood flow to the brain is limited, it can result in seizures. Cognitive disorders like dementia can also cause seizures, as they fundamentally alter the way the brain works. Even basic metabolic changes like fluctuations in blood sugar or sodium levels can lead to seizures. If your senior loved one has been affected by any of these health concerns in the past, be on the lookout for signs of seizures.
Different Types of Seizures
When people think of seizures, they usually imagine violent, full-body spasms. However, seizures can take many forms, and if you’re caring for an aging adult, it’s important to know what signs to look for. Most seizures are caused by a wave of electrical activity in the brain that precludes normal function, and this can manifest in several different ways. Seizures accompanied by convulsions are known as tonic-clonic seizures. Other symptoms of these seizures include jerking movements, tongue biting, and shallow breathing.
Tonic-clonic seizures can be the most debilitating. Living with a serious health condition can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Fort Myers seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.
When only part of the brain is affected, it can result in a partial seizure, which may be accompanied by shaking and sudden changes in sensory experience. Seniors will likely remain conscious during these partial seizures, so they aren’t as obvious as tonic-clonic seizures. Many seniors with epilepsy experience complex partial seizures, which are characterized by wandering, agitation, repetition, and clumsiness.
Even though complex partial seizures may not be as alarming as tonic-clonic seizures, they can still be scary for family caregivers to manage, and that kind of stress can have a cumulative effect. Family caregivers sometimes need a break from their caregiving responsibilities. When they need respite care, Fort Myers families can rely on professional caregivers to help their senior loved ones remain safe at home.
If your loved one is diagnosed with epilepsy, there are treatment options available. Many of the medications commonly used to treat epilepsy have negative interactions with drugs used to treat other conditions that are common among aging adults. Nonetheless, by working with your loved one’s doctor, it’s possible to create an effective treatment regimen to control seizures.
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 home care. Fort Myers families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place. Home Care Assistance is here to help. To talk to one of our Care Managers, call (239) 449-4701 today.