Back Caregiver tips

If you provide care for a loved one with epilepsy, especially a child, you know that accurate information and the right treatment plan are important for living life with epilepsy on your own terms.

The following question-and-answer sections address the topics on caregivers’ minds regarding epilepsy in children, teens, or the elderly.

CHILDREN WITH EPILEPSY

Will my child outgrow epilepsy?

Some children will still have epilepsy when they grow up and will live a very full life. For some, seizures can disappear when they get older. It is hard to predict. It depends on the kind of epilepsy they have. But there is good news – A lot of people with epilepsy may stop having seizures as long as they keep taking the right kind of medicine.

Is it safe for my child to play with friends?

Most children with epilepsy can do most everything their friends do, including playing baseball, soccer, and other sports. How controlled their seizures are will help you decide which sports and games are appropriate.

Should I inform my child’s teachers?

It is a good idea to educate your child’s teacher and other school personnel about your child's epilepsy. Although teachers and other school personnel (with the exception of the school nurse) are not health care professionals, they do have a role to play in supporting students with epilepsy and ensuring their safety. The degree of participation you should expect from teachers will depend on variables such as your child’s age and stage of development and the severity of his/her epilepsy. Be sure to keep school personnel up to date during the year and provide them with any new information concerning your child’s condition, including a change in medication, which can lead to side effects such as drowsiness.

Can my child still play sports?

Yes; your child can play sports. But do talk to your neurologist or epileptologist before enrolling your child in any physical activities.

Here are some tips:

  • If your child’s seizures usually occur at a certain time, plan activities when seizures are less likely to happen.
  • Have your child avoid extreme heat when exercising and keep him/her hydrated with plenty of water to reduce seizure risks.

TEENS WITH EPILEPSY

Should my teen drive?

Generally, driving is prohibited if:

  • You have had a seizure within the last six months.
  • You are taking antiepileptic medication that causes you to experience drowsiness or poor muscle control.
  • You require medication to prevent seizures but persistently drink alcoholic beverages to excess or do not comply fully with your physician's prescribed treatment.

However, the requirements may vary based on where you live. Contact your provincial Ministry of Transportation for more information.

Is dating okay?

Many teens worry that their date will not want to go out with them if they find out about their epilepsy.

That could happen. But, as with everything, honesty is always the best policy. It is also a good idea that your teen’s friends (and dates) know what to expect so they will not be alarmed if a seizure does occur and will know what to do to help.

Can playing video games cause a seizure?

Video games do not cause epilepsy or seizures, although for some children with epilepsy, stress, fatigue, or hyperventilation may trigger seizures during video games. Video games also may trigger seizures in those with photosensitive epilepsy (seizures triggered by flashing lights or flickering images), but this affects only 3% of people with epilepsy. Most children with epilepsy should be able to play video games without any problems.

ELDERLY PERSONS WITH EPILEPSY

Is it okay for older people with epilepsy to live alone?

Although there are always exceptions, older people with epilepsy who are otherwise in good health and whose mental abilities are unaffected can usually continue to live independently.

Of course, there are risks associated with seizures when people live alone. However, making certain changes in the home can reduce the risks. For example, living in a house or apartment that does not have stairs reduces the risk of falling. Injury from falls is also less likely if the home has carpeted floors, padded furniture, and protective padding around the corners of tables. See Epilepsy in Your Everyday Life for more at-home safety tips.

Someone with fairly frequent seizures may want to carry a portable phone or beeper so that they can call for help from any part of the house.

Some older people living alone prefer to work out a simple code, like a flowerpot in a window or a shade that is lowered and raised according to a schedule, to let friends and neighbors know that all is well or to alert them if there are problems.

Are older people with epilepsy allowed to drive?

Older people with epilepsy whose seizures are adequately controlled with epilepsy medication (and who meet other licensing requirements) may drive in all parts of Canada based on certain qualifications. Contact your doctor or your provincial Ministry of Transportation for further information.

How can caregivers care for themselves?

When you care for someone with epilepsy, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. But know this: Not only is it OK to look after yourself too, but it’s crucial. After all, taking care of your own needs helps you be a better caregiver or companion to your loved one. It’s known that caregivers and companions can have a significant impact on the quality of life of someone with epilepsy, making your health and well-being all the more important.

Here are some tips to keep in mind, to help you avoid caregiver burnout:

  • Know your limits.
  • Watch for signs of stress.
  • Don’t skip your veggies – or your workouts.
  • Take time for you.
  • Consider a support group.
  • Try some stress-reduction techniques.
  • Keep informed.
  • Seek help if you need it.

FIND MORE TIPS AND SUPPORT

For more caregiver tips and support, see: