How to be There for Your Loved One with Epilepsy

Epilepsy Feature

Did you know one in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their lifetime? This makes it the most common  serious brain disorder worldwide. Yet, it’s still at the base of public misunderstanding, which causes it not to receive the attention and funding it deserves. That’s why it’s important we learn about epilepsy, so that we can help spread awareness about this pertinent issue, especially since this month happens to be National Epilepsy Month. 

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized by sporadic seizures. In fact, people should pay more mind to seizures as it occurs to one in 10 people in their lifetime. It is also important to note that epilepsy does not discriminate — it can happen to anyone regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, and medical history. Even though this disorder is rather prevalent to society, it still doesn’t get talked about so often. This is because there lies a lot of misunderstandings regarding the epilepsy. Such misunderstandings can cause social challenges to those enduring the disorder, like bullying and depression. This is why learning about something before judging it is vital in any situation. 

Did You Know there are Different Types of Seizures?

Seizures are categorized into two groups: generalized and focal seizures. 

According to the CDC, generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain, while focal seizures are localized and affect only one side of the brain. Within each group, there are subgroups of seizures. 

Generalized Partial Seizure BELatina

In generalized seizures, there are absence and tonic-clonic seizures. Absence seizures, also known as petit mal seizures, are spotted when a person is rapidly blinking or they’re staring into space for a few seconds (longer than usual at least and not responding to anyone or anything). Then, we have the tonic-clonic seizures, also known as grand mal seizures. Tonic-clonic seizures (this is the one people typically think about) can cause the person experiencing them to have muscle spasms, visibly shake, and lose consciousness. After a person goes through a tonic-clonic seizure, they may feel tired, so be mindful of that. 

On the other hand, we have focal seizures. Within the group of focal seizures there are three subgroups: simple focal, complex focal, and secondary generalized seizures. Simple focal seizures takes control of only a small part of the brain. Simple focals can be detected when there is slight twitching and change of sensation, such as taste or smell. As for a complex focal seizure, the person will most likely experience feelings of confusion. They won’t be able to respond properly to anything for a few minutes. The last one, secondary generalized, is quite rare. This is a distinguishable seizure in which it starts out by affecting only one side of the brain and then it evolves to affect both sides of the brain. This means that the person has both a focal and generalized seizure during their seizing episode. 

Please note that seizures only last a few minutes. Any seizure that lasts five minutes or more is grounds for concern. 

What Can You Do to Help? 

There are ways you can help if you ever see a loved one, or anyone for that matter, experience an epileptic episode. 

First off, you want to remain calm. Someone going through a seizure or who has become responsive after a seizure is usually afraid and even embarrassed. Just relax and reassure them of their safety. The next thing you want to do is to incorporate the three S’s into your plan to help them — the three S’s stand for Stay, Safe, and Side. 

  • Stay represents the importance of you staying with the person during their epileptic or seizing episode. 
  • Safe places focus on their safety and the significance of you maintaining it. 
  • Side is a reminder to place the person having this experience on their side. This diminishes the possibility of them choking. 

How you should place someone on their side, also called the recovery position.

Seizures Epilepsy

Something else you should try doing is removing move the objects away from the person seizing, that way there’s less chance of them injuring themselves. Also, try to protect their head by putting something soft under their head, maybe a sweater or a pillow, if it’s available. 

If you follow these tips diligently, then you should have no problem containing the situation. 

What Should You Not Do? 

Aside from the tips I just mentioned, there are some things you shouldn’t do. 

First of all, whatever you do, don’t put anything in their mouth or try to restrain them! I don’t know if this happened to you, but I remember hearing people around me saying to put something in the mouth of anyone seizing when I was growing up. Apparently, this would help them not swallow their tongue. I’m glad I never had anyone seize around me or my family when I was younger because this dangerous method would’ve been used. Thankfully, many years since then have passed by and I learned that there is no way anyone who seizes is going to swallow their tongue. However, putting anything inside the mouth of a person seizing will cause even more issues to that person. 

Should You Call 911?

As aforementioned, seizures should last a few minutes and should not surpass the five minute  mark. If possible, try to time the seizure. The following are moments when you should call 911: 

  • The seizure last five minutes or more
  • The person got injured during the seizure
  • They are having repeated seizures
  • The person has a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or are pregnant 
  • The person has difficulty walking after the seizure
  • The seizure occurred in water
  • The person has difficulty breathing after they become responsive
  • The person does not return to their usual state after the seizure
  • The person who seized is asking you to call 911

Epilepsy is as relevant to society as ever. However, we are confident that this information can help someone out if they ever find themselves witnessing an epileptic or seizing episode. Ultimately, the most important thing is to continue spreading information about epilepsy. You never know how many people you can help out through the power of knowledge.