Epilepsy and Ageing

Ageing Initiative

Epilepsy and Ageing

The Epilepsy Foundation has undertaken a project called ‘Tackling Epilepsy in the Later Years’ with the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), the Council for the Ageing (COTA) Victoria, and the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL).

People can be diagnosed with epilepsy at any age and one of the biggest age groups to be affected are those who are 65 years of age or older. This demographic are now living longer, therefore it is vital that those affected know how to correctly manage their epilepsy and know there is sufficient support available to them. This support must be provided whether they are living in their own home or in residential care.

The aims of this project are to:
1.  Evaluate the existing knowledge about epilepsy in:

  • Older people (65 years age and older) who have epilepsy and in those who do not; and
  • Aged care staff and carers.

2.  Provide an evidence base of treatments, consequences/issues and the management of epilepsy in older people (65 years and older)
3.  Improve the knowledge and understanding of epilepsy in ageing people with epilepsy and their families and aged care staff/carers through resources informed by the established evidence base
4.  Raise the awareness of the risk of epilepsy for older people within the community, and
5.  Facilitate best practice in the management of epilepsy in older people.


Published Journal Article 

A journal article has just been published on one of the surveys conducted as a part of the Tackling Epilepsy in the Later Years project.

Plain Language Summary

Older adults (65 years or more) have an increased risk of having seizures and developing epilepsy. There are several risk factors in this group which can cause epilepsy including falls and health-related conditions, e.g. stroke, dementia and depression. It is important that these risk factors are monitored by health professionals such as general practitioners (GPs) to prevent epilepsy or to ensure that further consequences such as death are avoided.

A recent study as a part of a project being run by the Epilepsy Foundation – ‘Tackling Epilepsy in the Later Years’ – explored the level of knowledge about epilepsy and the use of Epilepsy Management Plans (EMPs) in people 65 years or older with and without epilepsy. There were 100 people with epilepsy and 472 older people without epilepsy who took part in which they were presented with a list of 23 true/false statements.

People without epilepsy did not answer very many questions correctly indicating a poor level of knowledge. People with epilepsy answered more questions correctly than people without epilepsy, however they still had a poor level of knowledge.

The study also found that in people with epilepsy who answered more questions correctly it was largely due to their satisfaction with clearer information having been provided by their medical professional.

Sixty-six people saw a GP about their epilepsy. Only 18 people had an individual EMP despite their importance and only 9 were directly involved in writing the plan.

Therefore, GPs need to provide older people with more information including about the increased risk of epilepsy occurring as a result of ageing. They also need to develop EMPs with older patients as a part of best practice and person-centred care.

Peterson, C, Piccenna, L, Williams, S, Batchelor, F, Dow, B and Shears, G. Older people and knowledge of epilepsy: GPs can help. Aust Fam Phys. 2017; 46 (3): 132 – 136. Read the full article here.

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