Home Safety Tips for People With Epilepsy

The kinds of seizures you have, where you are when one happens, what you're doing, and who you're with all play into whether or not you'll be hurt. If your epilepsy is well-controlled, an accidental injury may not be a big concern for you. But it's still a possibility and something you should think about.

The things most likely to cause trouble at home are heights, water, heat, and electricity. So what can you do to make your little corner of the world a safer haven? Your doctor can refer a visiting nurse or physical therapist to look at your living situation and make specific recommendations for your type of epilepsy and your environment.

In the meantime, start with these suggestions.

Bathroom

A lot of hard edges, often in a small space, plus hot water, plus the need for personal privacy make the bathroom a challenging place.

The first house rule should be, "Do NOT lock the door." Instead, hang a sign over the doorknob that can be flipped to say "occupied." That way, if you have a seizure while in the bathroom, help can get to you. Hinge the door so it swings outward. It can still be easily opened, even if you fall against it.

Showers with a clear-running drain are better than baths, so water doesn't build up and create a chance of drowning. Non-skid strips on the shower floor will keep you steadier on your feet. A curtain, instead of a shower door, gives easier access for help to get to you if needed. Install tub rails or safety bars.

If you tend to fall during seizures, you may want to sit on a shower chair or the floor and use a handheld shower nozzle.

Keep the water temperature lukewarm to avoid the possibility of burning yourself.

Be wary of heated styling tools like flat irons. And this is a good practice for everyone: Always double-check that the faucet is turned off and there's no water in the sink, shower, or bath before you use an electric razor, hair dryer, or other plugged-in device.

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Kitchen and Dining

If you live alone, consider using a food processor rather than a knife to chop ingredients, or buy prepared meals. If you live with others, have someone else nearby while you use knives or the stove.

Cooking with a microwave greatly lowers your chances of getting burned. An electric stove is better than the open flame of gas. Put food on the back burners, so you're less likely to fall on the hot surface or spill hot food if you go down. Bring plates and dishes to the pots and pans, rather than moving the cookware to the table to serve a meal.

Wear rubber gloves when cleaning up, or use unbreakable dishes, to help avoid cuts in case you drop a heavy plate or glass.

A chair with armrests could help prevent falls. Family members and dining companions should know how to do the Heimlich maneuver in case you have a seizure while you're eating and start choking.

Living Room or Den

Cut down on clutter, leaving plenty of clear, carpeted floor space in case of falls. Wall-to-wall carpet is better than area rugs to prevent tripping and to cushion you if you do. Linoleum and cork are softer than tile and wood.

Securely anchor TVs and other heavy items on a table or shelf. Bundle cables and cords, and keep them out of the way. Put corner guards on furniture and padding on hard or sharp edges. Avoid glass tables and knick-knacks in the open.

A fireplace on a cold night may be cozy, but it needs a screen in place at all times. Get safety covers for your radiators.

Bedroom

Wall-to-wall carpeting and covered edges on dressers and tables are also a good idea here.

Don't put your bed against a wall or near a radiator. If you might fall out, a futon or mattress on a low platform or the floor is a safer bet than a bed you have to climb into. And place cushions or pillows around it.

Limit the number of pillows you sleep with.

Consider having a monitor in the room if you're alone to alert someone nearby for help.

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Seizure Drills

Schedule regular "seizure" drills for everyone who's often in the home, including babysitters and extended family members when they're staying over. Practice getting the person with epilepsy into a safe position, know when to call for help, and how and when to give any prescribed rescue medicines. Even young children can be taught to dial 911.

Make sure a neighbor or friend has a key to get in to check on you or offer aid quickly.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on July 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Epilepsy Action: "Safety advice for people with epilepsy."

Epilepsy Foundation: "Safety at Home," "Staying Safe," "Safety in the Kitchen," "Safety While Sleeping," "Seizure Drills," "Seizure First Aid," "Using Rescue Treatments."

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