One out of five people living with epilepsy lives alone, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. This is welcome news for people who want to live independently. Even if there is a risk of seizure, you can build a daily routine on your terms.
There are several steps you can take to prepare your loved ones in case you have a seizure. You can also modify your living space to increase your level of safety if you do have a seizure when alone.
Since epilepsy is a lifelong condition, lifestyle changes can also improve your overall health and reduce exposure to seizure triggers.
1. Have a seizure response plan
A seizure response plan helps those around you know what to do. You can follow a form like the one provided by the Epilepsy Foundation. This helps the community of people in your life understand what your seizures typically look like. It gives important tips, such as how to position your body, if necessary, and when to call for help.
Your seizure response plan can be used by anyone who knows where it is. You may carry a plan with you, post it on your fridge, or give it to loved ones. If someone finds you during a seizure, they can use the information to provide care. That may include calling your doctor or 911.
When you’ve filled out the seizure response plan, you should have it checked by your doctor. They may have additional points to include on the plan to better ensure your safety.
2. Prepare your living area
Small changes in your home environment can greatly reduce the risk of physical injury during a seizure. Place padding on sharp corners. “Fall-proof” your space by getting rid of anything that may cause you to trip. Non-slip carpets may help.
Consider having grab bars installed in your bathrooms to prevent falls. Use of non-slip bathmats with a cushion may prevent injuries due to a seizure in the bathroom. Use a shower chair in the shower and take only showers, not baths.
Keep doors closed to prevent wandering outside during a seizure. You may want to keep doors unlocked so someone can reach you, or give a neighbor a key.
There are other ways to protect yourself. Take the elevator instead of stairs to reduce falling risk. Use the back burners on the stove to prevent pots from falling. Block off areas of potential hazards, like fireplaces or entrances to pools where you may fall in.
3. Know your triggers
Seizure activity varies a lot between individuals. Many people can connect their seizure experience to a specific event. This is valuable information, because you can reduce your chance of having a seizure if you can avoid your triggers.
For example, the following can act as triggers:
- alcohol or drug use
- lack of sleep
- time of day
- low blood sugar
- menstrual cycle
By understanding your triggers, you can better prepare for your own safety while living alone.
Taking steps to reduce your stress, like getting regular exercise, may reduce your chances of having a seizure. In addition, when you let loved ones know your triggers, they’re better able to help. They can check in on you when necessary.
4. Make lifestyle changes
Paying attention to your overall health can go a long way to reducing seizure activity. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise. If you’re taking medication, continuing to do so as prescribed can help you stay safe.
Try to work and stay engaged with your community. You may not be allowed to drive. If this is the case, you can use public transit to go to activities. Wearing an emergency alert bracelet can let those around you know what’s happening if you experience a seizure in public.
Some people living with epilepsy work from home. Consider this as an option if you’re finding it a challenge to reduce seizure activity. At the same time, it’s important not to become too isolated. An epilepsy support group can help you find emotional connection.
These positive steps should reduce your overall stress, and by extension, may reduce the risk of a seizure.
5. Install an alarm or emergency device
Wearing a medic alert bracelet helps you get assistance while outside the home. But when you’re alone, you may need to ask for help in other ways. Consider buying a commercial alarm device or subscribing to an emergency response service. This way, you may be able to call for help during a seizure.
Many people experience worry over having a seizure while alone, especially one that causes injury. In addition to alarm systems, some people have a routine where a neighbor or family member calls every day. They may also know to look for signs that something has happened. This can include drawn blinds or curtains that are normally open.
People living with epilepsy often value their independence. To keep that independence, take steps to stay safe in your home. Remove hazards from the living space to reduce the risk of injury. Consider having an alert system that makes it possible to call for help after a seizure.
By communicating with neighbors, friends, and family, you can ensure that you have support from your loved ones and community. By taking care of your overall well-being and making lifestyle changes to lower the risk of seizure, you can live safely and independently with epilepsy.