Epilepsy in later life

April 2018

General Practitioners

Country of origin: UK

One third of older people with epilepsy have experienced stigma because of their condition, according to new research by the charity Epilepsy Action.

Older people are now, the charity claims, emerging as the largest single group with epilepsy and the theme of this year?s National Epilepsy Week was Epilepsy in Later Life. The recent Epilepsy Action survey of members aged 60 and over also found that one third of older people who responded believe that epilepsy affects their relationships with family and friends.

This picture of the problems experienced by older people with epilepsy is supported by the findings of a MORI Social Research Institute survey of geriatricians, also commissioned by Epilepsy Action. Of the geriatricians surveyed, 53 per cent believe that a number of social and psychological effects are more of a problem for older people with epilepsy than others with the condition. These may include lack of independence, lack of confidence and loneliness.

Sixty-eight per cent of geriatricians recognise that physical effects are more of a problem for older people with epilepsy than others with the condition. These may include side effects from drugs/drug interactions, risk of injury from falls and confusion. In addition, the survey found that one third of geriatricians are unaware that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently issued guidance for the diagnosis and management of epilepsy.

The NICE guideline on epilepsy states that information on a range of issues should be made available to patients to empower them to manage their condition, yet older Epilepsy Action members highlighted a serious shortfall in advice and information. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents to the Epilepsy Action members survey were not provided with adequate written information about epilepsy. The charity says that this is despite the fact that older patients are particularly at risk of epilepsy drug side effects, and are more likely to experience interactions between epilepsy drugs and other medications.

Epilepsy Action claims that as a consequence of stigma, many older people with epilepsy do not come forward to have regular specialist reviews and are resigned to the burden of unacceptable side effects and increased seizure frequencies. However, these can often be easily rectified and addressed by a specialist review. The charity believes that a change in attitudes towards epilepsy is essential before services can be improved and older people can live as fulfilling a life ? with epilepsy ? as possible.

Copies of Epilepsy Action?s information booklet, New to Epilepsy in Later Life, are available on the charity?s website.

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