Epilepsy and the senior community

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When people in their sixties, seventies or eighties experience unusual feelings — lost time, suspended awareness, confusion, seizures — they may think that simply “getting older” is to blame. However, there may be another explanation — they may have become one of the 300,000 senior citizens in the United States with epilepsy. View this VIDEO on Epilepsy and seniors.

Causes

Some causes for epilepsy and seizures among older individuals include after-effects of stroke, tumor or cardiovascular events. 

Unfortunately, having epilepsy later in life poses additional problems in treatment because of age-related issues and use of other medications. It also increases the risk of falls, broken bones and a loss of independence.

Today, we know that epilepsy is not contagious, not a mental illness, not a symptom of intellectual decline, and certainly not a reason for shame or family embarrassment.

Risks

Seizures are usually not life-threatening, although in senior citizens the extra strain on the heart, the possibility of injury and the reduced intake of oxygen may increase the risk. For many, their seizures can often be treated quite successfully. Even if seizures continue to happen occasionally, they don’t need to prevent an otherwise healthy, active senior citizen from living an independent and satisfying life.


Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014

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