There is no easy way to put it - living with Epilepsy can be a challenging experience, mainly because of the unpredictability of seizures and the vulnerable condition they leave the sufferers in. Many patients report living with a constant sense of dread and suffer isolation in social and professional life because of it.
Life is stressful anyway in the 21st century and the fear of unprovoked seizures and the resultant isolation can create severe added stress, leading to a host of other medical conditions. Epilepsy especially has been linked with a significantly higher chance of having Depression and suicidal tendencies.
But it need not be that hard. Doctors the world over agree that most Seizures are curable with correct diagnosis and medication, and with some lifestyle modifications, Epilepsy patients too can lead a normal life. Self-management plays an important role in allowing Epilepsy sufferers to live normally and sociably.
And a big part of that is making your home seizure-safe.
Epilepsy is a dysfunction of the central nervous system characterized by sudden and unusual spikes of electrical charges in brain cells leading to seizures. Since we are not in control of our bodies during seizures there is a huge risk of injuries or other complications even in known environments. So, making your immediate environment AKA home safe for that duration is one of the most fundamental safety measures you need to put in place.
Types and duration of seizures vary wildly from person to person, so it is important to first have a very clear idea of what kind of threat you are facing during your seizures. That said, a few broad threat areas can be detected in general - water, electricity, height, fire, sharp objects.
When you live with seizures, water can seriously become your enemy. Drowning remains one of the biggest cause of seizure-driven death worldwide, and slippery surfaces can result in extreme injuries while having a seizure. So safeguarding your bathroom is the top priority when it comes to your home.
What to do:
- Separate the wet and dry areas. carpet the dry areas and put ribbed strips on wet areas like shower, bath, and any other floor space that can have water spills.
- Insulate and tape any electrical appliance like dryers, heaters, curling irons etc that you may have to keep in the bathroom.
- Put soft tape on everything that may have sharp or even blunt edges like wash basins, bath sides, shower dividers, doors. and door handles.
- Make sure the bathroom door swings to the outside when opened. That way, if you have a seizure and fall against the door you still won't block it and people outside will be able to help.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
- Never lock the bathroom door. Instead, put up an 'Occupied' sign, so that people can come to help in case you are having a seizure.
- Avoid having a bath, as accumulated water can create a chance of drowning. A shower with open drains is a much better and safer option.
- Do not use electrical appliances in the bathroom if there is accumulated water present anywhere. This is a risky practice anyway but can be catastrophic if you have a seizure while using electricity and fall into the water with it.
The closest we are to fire in this day and age is in the kitchen. Proximity to fire while having a seizure is quite obviously not a good idea, but we all need to eat. How to minimize the risks then?
- An electric oven is much safer than a gas oven/open flame cooking. In any case, consider switching completely to microwave cooking.
- Always wear protective gloves while dealing with hot items so that in case of a seizure your skin does not come in contact with them.
- Transfer cooked items to heat-insulted pots and utensils before serving and avoid eating directly from the cooking pot.
- Always keep one or multiple seats around so that you can safely fall back.
Knives, furniture edges, metal structures - any sharp object is risky as it is, but when your body is out of control they can pose an even greater risk.
- Cover the edges of doors, windows, and angular pieces of furniture.
- Wear work gloves while handling knives, cutters, peelers and other sharp objects in the kitchen.
- Get rid of glass kitchen and dinnerware – they may break and cause injury. Use wood or food-safe plastic ware for eating and metalware for cooking.
You should be doubly careful when handling electrical equipment if you have Epilepsy. But these procedures are good practice regardless of any condition you might have.
- Insulate and tape every wire and wire-openings in the house twice over for maximum safety.
- Wear rubber gloves and slippers while handling electrical appliances.
- Consider installing plastic holders on your electrical switches so that your skin never comes in direct contact.
- Keep electrical appliances in dry positions and make sure water doesn’t get into them.
- Keep radiators, room heaters, and fireplaces covered with a screen at all times.
If your seizure makes you fall frequently, even normal living spaces can become a source of injury. The first thing to ensure during a fall is to break up the impact which we usually do by throwing our hands or legs forward and falling on them – and this happens voluntarily. But during a seizure, your brain and body may not be in a position to send or receive voluntary signals, so you better be prepared.
- Cover every inch of your floor with wall-to-wall carpeting. Ensure it is thick and soft.
- Get rid of your clutter ruthlessly. The more floor space is occupied with stuff, the more likely you are to trip during a seizure. Remove all decorative pieces, knick-knacks, low tables and boxes.
- Keep all your wires off the floor. Bundling them up and taping them to the wall can be a solution.
- Keep plenty of chairs in every corner of the home where you may spend time – bathroom, living room, kitchen, and study. If you feel a seizure coming you’ll always have a place to safely sit into.
- Make sure all the chairs have armrest as they offer the best protection during seizures.
- Lower the height of your bed and keep cushions and pillows around it to break up a fall from the bed.
- Consider getting rid of the bed entirely and sleeping on thick mattresses or Japanese-style futons.
- Don’t keep too many pillows on the bed, you might get involuntarily choked by them.
ASK FOR HELP
We may be living in an increasingly individualistic culture, but the human civilization is built on cooperation, and never is that spirit more evident when we are in trouble. So, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help – from friends, family members, and even strangers.
- One of the biggest problems that stem from Epilepsy is isolation, anxiety, and Depression. Keep in regular contact with your friends and spend time with your family.
- Discuss your condition with family members and friends and encourage them to learn about it.
- While working in the kitchen or going to the bathroom, keep people notified and whenever possible ask them to assist you.
- Make your family and friends part of your seizure recovery plan.
These seem like a lot of changes to incorporate in a lifestyle. But changes are not always sad, they can be exciting too. Living with Epilepsy may require some readjustments but it should not in any way cost you your quality of life. Taking the above-mentioned step will only help you take control of your life in a better and safer way.