In Everett and elsewhere around the country, November will be celebrated as Epilepsy Awareness Month, and that makes it a great time to stop and think about the possibility of your senior loved one suffering either a stroke, an epileptic seizure, or both. Senior home care professionals often encounter situations where their charges suffer one or both of these events, and must be cared for in the aftermath. People around the country will be doing their best to call attention to the prevalence of epileptic seizures, and these are made more likely after someone has also suffered a stroke. Here are some things you should know about these situations, in case someone you know should ever be afflicted by them.
The connection between strokes and seizures
Anyone who has had a stroke before is at an elevated risk for also having some kind of epileptic seizure. The reason for this is that a stroke actually injures the brain, and that causes scar tissue to form in the area where the injury occurred. When scar tissue forms in the brain, it will impact all electrical activity there, and when electrical activity is disrupted in the brain, that’s what causes a person to have a seizure.
The more damaged the brain becomes, the more electrical activity will be disrupted, which means the more frequent the seizures will be. It’s also likely that with an increased frequency of seizures, the severity of those seizures might also be elevated. That means it’s very important to have your senior loved one diagnosed so that proper treatment can occur and any damage can be minimized.
There are several different types of strokes that a person can have, including hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes generally occur when there’s bleeding going on either around the brain or within it. Ischemic strokes generally occur when a blood clot has formed in the brain, or when there is some type of restricted blood flow to the brain. It’s much more likely that a person who has undergone a hemorrhagic stroke will also have an epileptic seizure following that stroke. It’s also far more likely that a senior will have an epileptic seizure when the stroke is quite severe, or when it takes place within the brain’s cerebral cortex.
Likelihood of seizures following a stroke
The risk of having a seizure after a stroke will always be at its highest in the first month after enduring the stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, people are much more likely to have an acute seizure within one day of having suffered a severe stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, or one that is associated with the cerebral cortex.
Roughly 5% of all people who suffer a stroke will also have a seizure within the first few weeks after the stroke. A massive study conducted in 2018 discovered that nearly one out of 10 people who suffered a stroke also experienced a follow-up seizure within a month after the stroke. It’s also possible for a person who has suffered a stroke to have chronic or recurring seizures. This is likely to be at least the beginning of epilepsy, and it will call for continued treatment so that the frequency of seizures is minimized and so the symptoms are less severe than they would otherwise be.
How to tell if your senior is having a seizure
There are actually more than 40 different types of seizures, and the symptoms that a victim will suffer vary, depending on exactly which type of seizure it is. By far, the most common seizure type is the generalized seizure, and it’s also the one that is most dramatic in appearance. Here are the symptoms you might notice from someone experiencing a generalized seizure:
- loss of consciousness or awareness
- uncontrollable shaking
- tingling sensations
- muscle spasms
- loss of muscle control
- confusion or disorientation
- significantly altered emotions
- loss of bladder control
- changes in perception regarding how things feel, taste, sound, look, or smell.
If you observe one or more of these symptoms in your senior loved one, it’s best that you get them to a doctor as soon as possible, so that any damage which occurs can be minimized.
How to help someone having a seizure
If you observe your senior loved one having a seizure, there are some things you can do to help them, so as to minimize any damage that occurs. First of all, place them on their side so as to prevent choking or vomiting. It’s also a good idea to put something soft under their head so that no further injury will occur to the brain. If there’s anything tight around their neck, it should be loosened, and anything in their mouth should be removed.
If there are any sharp or solid objects nearby, these should be removed so your parent doesn’t bump into them. Pay close attention to whatever symptoms occur and how long they last. This will be important information to give emergency personnel, so they can administer appropriate treatment. And it goes without saying, don’t leave the senior person until you’re sure that the seizure is completely finished. If you should happen to observe a long, drawn-out seizure where the person doesn’t regain consciousness, consider it a life-threatening emergency, and do whatever it takes to get immediate medical assistance.