Seizures and Limited Mobility
Managing health conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy is difficult at the best of times, but for people with restricted mobility it can present even more of a challenge. Using a wheelchair, hoist or stair lift means a fit can have dramatic effects on you and people around you.
Speak to your GP or health specialist to put together a care plan, including information about the best way for carers or other people to help you if you have a seizure. In this article, we outline some general first aid tips.
If someone you know has a seizure in a wheelchair, the most important thing to remember is to NOT restrict or restrain their movements. This can lead to an injury such as torn muscles, or in severe cases, broken bones.
Put the wheelchair’s brakes on to stop them moving, and if they’re buckled into a seatbelt or waist harness, leave it fastened. Other straps such as for arms, chest or legs should left undone to give them free movement.
If the wheelchair has a padded headrest, this should be adjusted to give support to the individual’s neck and head, and to keep their airway open. If a headrest isn’t included, a rolled up jumper or cushion will work too.
Once the individual has regained consciousness, they may prefer to recuperate on the floor in the recovery position. The person’s care plan should detail what to do after the seizure and whether it is safe to move them. If it’s recommended not to move them, they can recover in the chair. Make sure they are fully recovered before you move them and before you give them anything to eat or drink.
Do NOT put anything in their mouth, as this can lead to choking. Do NOT attempt to restrain them or bring them round.
Stair lifts can be incredibly useful to those who struggle with mobility issues, but combining them with a health condition that has a risk of seizures can be problematic. It’s advisable to have a detailed risk assessment carried out, including the type of seizures they have, their frequency and pattern, and whether there are warning signs.
There are equal risks with having and not having a chair lift. An individual may injure themselves trying to go up the stairs when they aren’t capable, but could equally injure themselves by falling down the stairs and hitting the chair or runner.
Stair lifts can be altered slightly to accommodate for the risk of seizures. Waist restraints or chest harnesses will prevent an individual from falling out of the chair, but still allow their limbs to move freely during the seizure. Additional padding on the chair can also help to minimise injury.
If the chair lift requires a button to be held to work, this would probably be released during a seizure and so the lift would remain stationary. Some lifts also have obstacle sensor detection, which prevents the chair from moving if there is someone lying on the stairs. If you have the space in your home, a vertical lift is also a possibility. These should have padded interiors to minimise injury and cushion the blow if an individual falls whilst inside.
Emergency situations and treatment
Although they can be alarming to witness, most seizures do not lead to a medical emergency. Once the symptoms have subsided, the individual usually recovers and regains consciousness.
However, call the emergency services if:
- The individual has another seizure immediately after the first without recovering
- They have injured themselves badly
- It is their first seizure
- The seizure lasts at least two minutes longer than normal
- The seizure last for more than five minutes
Some individuals may have prescribed emergency medication to stop their seizures, which needs to be administered directly and promptly. It can be difficult to administer medication to someone in a wheelchair, so seeking advice from a specialist or GP is a good idea. Other information regarding medication should be explained in the care plan, but if this is unclear, it’s always worth double checking.
If in doubt, always seek professional medical advice.