Medical Alerts Protect Those with Epilepsy

Medical Alerts Protect Those with Epilepsy

If you suffer from epilepsy, you probably know that this condition is becoming more common, especially amongst the elderly. In fact, the Epilepsy Foundation says that it is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the world. It doesn’t discriminate between genders, races, or ethnic backgrounds – anyone can develop epilepsy. Though many believe epilepsy is a condition that begins in childhood, that isn’t always the case.1

According to the CDC, epilepsy affects nearly 3.4 million people in the United States today, and about one million of those are seniors aged 55 and older. That’s the number of people with “active epilepsy,” which is defined as those who have been diagnosed with the condition and have had seizures in the past year, are taking medication to control their seizures, or both.2

You might be diagnosed with the condition if you have had at least two unprovoked seizures at least 24 hours apart. Sometimes the cause of epilepsy is clear. Other times, the cause is a complete mystery.

Epilepsy and Seniors

Epilepsy develops more often in elderly adults. There are many reasons for this, and most of them have to do with brain function. Some risk factors that are more commonly found in seniors and elderly adults include strokes, brain tumors, diseases that affect the brain such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, and head injuries as the result of falls.

That’s a huge reason why an alert system for elderly adults is a very good idea: if you fall and hit your head, a traumatic brain injury can result, and the damage from that can be quite difficult to predict. From a mild concussion to brain bleeds to the long-term effects that can lead to an epilepsy diagnosis, hitting your head can have serious and long-lasting consequences. Having a medical alert system with fall detection ensures that you get help fast, which generally results in a better medical outcome.

If you have epilepsy, no matter what your age may be, medical alert technology is a very good idea.

Epileptic Seizures

When someone hears the word “epilepsy” they often think of severe seizures, the kind of seizures where someone drops to the floor with the severe bodily movements that are the hallmarks of a grand mal seizure. This is also known as tonic-clonic seizures.

Johns Hopkins Medicine breaks it down: “tonic” is the stiffening of the body during a seizure, and “clonic” is the jerking of the muscles during the seizure. These seizures can be very frightening.3

But the truth is that epileptic seizures can take many forms. While sometimes they do include tonic-clonic seizures, those movements can be very large or small enough that it’s hard to see it happening. A person might also have seizures during which they do nothing at all – it’s as if they simply stop working, their energy leaving them as if a plug was pulled from an electrical outlet. They might stare into space, seem confused, be unable to answer questions or speak, or make unusual movements.

Are There Warning Signs?

The warning signs of a seizure can vary quite a bit from one individual to another. These signs might include:

·        Seeing lights or colors surrounding a person or object in your line of sight

·        An intense feeling of stomach upset or nausea

·        Emotions out of the blue for no apparent reason, such as intense fear

·        A feeling of déjà vu

·        Dizziness and loss of balance

·        A strange taste in your mouth or an unusual scent

·        Steady or flashing lights in your peripheral vision, or seeing colors and shapes

·        Hallucinations, or seeing objects and people who aren’t actually there

When someone experiences these warning signs, it is imperative to get to a safe place right away. This might mean simply lying down on the floor so that you don’t fall during the seizure. If you have a PERS (personal emergency response system) alert, press the button to get help fast. The trained staff at the monitoring center will know exactly what to do.

How Do Medical Alerts Protect those with Epilepsy?

Any sort of seizure puts you at a higher risk of falls. If you have had seizures or have been diagnosed with epilepsy, an emergency button alarm is an excellent idea. A medical alarm with fall detection can be your saving grace if you do have a seizure and need help right away, as you don’t even have to press the button – the device senses falls and automatically sends an alert for help, and the trained professionals at a 24/7 monitoring center spring into action.

After a Seizure

After a seizure subsides, there could be issues that might include confusion, disorientation, dizziness, and temporary cognitive impairment. You might even have lingering issues with your senses, such as a lack of hearing or vision.

As you try to get your bearings, you might notice that you have other problems as well, especially if you fell during the seizure. You might have suffered a fracture when you hit the ground. You might have an injury to your head if you hit something on the way down. And you might have bumps, bruises, or even some bleeding if you bit your tongue or the inside of your cheek during the seizure.

A medical alert pendant or wristband can protect you. You will want to press the button if you have a fracture or any other injury, but you can also press the button if you need help of any kind after the seizure.

Why Epilepsy Can Be Worse in the Elderly

There are many reasons why epilepsy can be worse in the elderly and more difficult to control. Though the aforementioned risk factors definitely make a difference in the odds of developing epilepsy, there are other issues at play as well.

As the body ages, so does the brain. And that aging can bring a whole host of surprises, including changes in the vascular system or structure of the brain that can lead to epilepsy. As we get older and develop chronic conditions, those conditions themselves can interfere with brain chemistry and lead to unusual changes. And the medications that you take to control those chronic conditions might interact unfavorably with the medications that are used to avoid seizures, leading to a careful balance of prescriptions to make sure your health stays on an even keel.

In addition, some of those medications for epilepsy have been known to cause bone loss, which leads to a greater risk of a fracture if you do suffer a fall. And when it comes to falls, some medications for epilepsy have shown a significant increase in dizzy spells. Unfortunately, this all means that the medications can lead to a greater risk of falls as well as a greater risk of injury when you do fall.

When choosing a medical alert device, look for a mobile option with GPS and fall detection. Fall detection is very important, as many of those who have seizures have no warning signs at all – and even if they do have warning, it might not happen the same way every time. Trust in the fall sensors in the fall detection device to ascertain a fall has occurred and alert a monitoring center on your behalf.

When a Seizure Becomes a True Emergency

It’s important to recognize when a seizure becomes a true emergency. If any of the following occur, it’s time to get medical assistance immediately:

·        A seizure lasts for more than five minutes.

·        A second seizure follows right after the first.

·        You are running a high fever.

·        You have diabetes.

·        You suffer an injury during the seizure.

·        You have seizures even if you are taking anti-seizure medication.

·        The nature of your seizures changes (for instance, perhaps you’ve always had absent seizures, but then you have a tonic-clonic seizure).

A seizure can disrupt your breathing and render you unconscious. Most of those who have seizures will start breathing normally again after the seizure and if they were unconscious, they will wake up within minutes (though they might be disoriented and confused when they do).

There are many very good reasons why someone with epilepsy should use an affordable medical alert device, no matter their age or their particular situation. The best thing in any emergency is knowing that help is standing by whenever and wherever you need it.