The best cure for epilepsy is knowledge and the willing participation of everyone in the community. While science has yet to get to the root cause of the neurological disorder and find a definite cure for it, the most we can do for the mean time is to know how to respond whenever a friend, a family member, or even a stranger experiences a seizure.
Children with epilepsy
As if normal parenting is not enough, the parenting stakes go higher when your child is diagnosed with epilepsy. It can be particularly heartbreaking for parents to see their child having a seizure, especially for those first few instances, in a phase when your knowledge about your child’s condition is limited to what you may have seen in popular media.
As a parent, all the responsibilities concerning the health and safety of your child sit on your shoulders. Epilepsy makes taking care of your child much more challenging in many aspects, particularly their growth, development, safety and, ultimately, happiness.
The first line of defense of parents whose children has epilepsy is, of course, correct and accurate information. Equip yourself with as much knowledge about your child’s neurological condition because eventually, as you support your child in every milestone of their life, you will be playing a major role in informing those people around your child regarding truths about the neurological disorder. You will be taking on the often exhaustive task of turning fallacy into fact, transforming misconception into informed opinion.
Any chronic illness imposes a significant emotional toll on a child, and with something like epilepsy (especially if a seizure occurs in the classroom or in the play ground), they might develop a feeling of being different and thereby resent that feeling. You will be their main source of courage. If anything, your child depends wholly on you to understand their own disease as much as possible. And from such understanding comes acceptance and effective management. On the other hand, it is also important to treat your child like you would any of your other children, which means disciplining them when necessary and not spoiling them as much as possible.
Perhaps as important as the emotional or medical support you can provide your child are the practical aspects to ensuring your child’s safety despite their medical condition. One is rearranging your home to make it as safe as possible in the event of a seizure: placing appropriate cushioning on sharp edges of furniture and installing heavy padding under the carpet are just some examples. Needless to say, you must also keep an eye on your child whenever they are near common hazards, such as an open fire, water, or electricity.
Epilepsy in the family
Epilepsy can affect any person regardless of age or gender. If any of your family members is diagnosed with the neurological disease, effective management of the illness would require the sincere participation of everyone.
As we have mentioned, knowing or educating oneself about the nature and extent of the illness is an important first step in overcoming the disorder. Operating out of sheer ignorance is dangerous. Everyone in the family should be thoroughly educated about the nature of the illness, including information regarding first aid (what to do when and if a seizure occurs) and pre-emptive measures to make a potential seizure as harmless as possible. The family should also never attempt to hide the condition from the neighbors or the community—the neurological disorder is not cause for embarrassment, and it’s up to the family members to demonstrate that fact to every family friend or acquaintance.
If the family member with epilepsy is under medication and their seizure seems to have been under control, it is still not reason to let your guard down. Epilepsy is incurable, and there’s no telling when the seizures suddenly change their pattern. That’s why people with epilepsy should not be allowed to drive for long distances or even drive alone. Care should also be taken when they go up or down the stairs, or whenever they are near hazards such as fire, water, or electricity.
The least the whole family can do in terms of support is making sure that the prescribed medicines are administered on schedule. Moreover, you should also conduct a risk assessment of your home, and determine how to rearrange furniture or what measures to undertake to minimize the risk of injury if a seizure occurs.
Epilepsy in public
Despite being common—about 3 to 5 percent of people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their lives—epilepsy continues to be shadowed by public ignorance. The average person’s knowledge about the neurological disorder is largely based on what they have seen in popular media, such as in movies or television. One example of a popular misconception about it is the supposed “need” to put something in the mouth of the seizing person to prevent them from swallowing their tongue—doing so could actually do more harm than good.
It is likely, therefore, that you may encounter a person having a seizure in a public place. You may be dining at some fancy restaurant, or shopping at the mall, or spending a day at the park, when somebody falls to the ground and starts having a seizure. And in such instances, knowing how to respond is critical in the effective management of the situation. Presence of mind is key, as well as some amount of common sense: lay the seizing person on the floor, clear any potentially dangerous objects, reassure everybody in the area that the situation is under control. You should also make sure that the person is breathing by loosening their clothing and, as the seizure subsides, laying them on their sides to avoid choking. In most situations, you don’t have to call an ambulance or 911. But if the seizure does not slow down after five minutes, or if the seizing person gets injured, then contacting medical professionals should not be delayed any further.