Taking steps to make your home a safer environment to live in can help to reduce the risk of accidents.
Many people with epilepsy express concern about safety in the home. Below are a few points for consideration. For someone with controlled epilepsy many of these precautions may be unnecessary, although safety in the home environment is an important consideration for everyone.
IN THE BATHROOM
For people with uncontrolled epilepsy great care needs to be taken when bathing. Taking a shower is considered to be less of a risk than taking a bath, and if possible showers with high-sided bases should be avoided as they could trap water if the drain were covered. If having a bath, do it while someone else is in the house will mean help is at hand if it is necessary. Run a shallow bath and put cold water in before the hot will minimise injury if a seizure occurs. Turning the hot water thermostat down a few degrees will ensure the water is never scalding. Bathroom and toilet doors could be hung so that they open outwards, preventing the door becoming blocked by the person falling behind it. Using safety locks which can be operated from outside, or putting an “Engaged” sign on the door allows privacy, but does mean that another person can get in if they need to.
IN THE BEDROOM
People who have seizures during their sleep may consider using safety pillows that can reduce the risk of suffocation.
Low-level beds or futons can be useful if there is a risk of someone falling out of bed, as would be a carpeted floor rather than a hard floor. Smoking in bed is never to be recommended, particularly so for people with uncontrolled epilepsy, as having a seizure whilst smoking could result in a fire. Having a smoke detector is important for every home.
HOW CAN I MAKE MY HOME ENVIRONMENT SAFE?
When choosing carpets and upholstery, people with epilepsy may wish to avoid fabrics that are difficult to clean, and coarse fabrics, which could lead to friction burns. In areas where food may be spilt, or where wear and tear is likely, non-slip scatter rugs, or carpet tiles may be considered.
Check that fabrics and furniture are fireproofed especially if you smoke.
Plastic covers can be bought to fit over sharp corners on furniture which can reduce the risk of injury if falling against them; alternatively, buying round tables instead of those with sharp corners is a possibility.
Safety glass in doors and in low windows is a legal requirement in newer or adapted properties and can greatly minimise any risk of injury if someone were to fall against it during a seizure. With older properties it may be worth checking whether safety glass has been fitted, and if not, applying safety film which can prevent splintering.
Trailing flex from electrical appliances can be a danger as well as a nuisance. Ensuring the correct number of sockets is provided can reduce the risk of tripping and pulling over appliances.
Lagging hot pipes, which may be gripped or fallen against in a seizure can save energy as well as prevent injury. Light, freestanding heaters that could easily be knocked over in a seizure are probably best avoided.
Guards can be purchased which attach to radiators to increase protection from burns. With all open or metal cased fires, a fireguard, which can be secured to the floor or the wall, is essential.
Care needs to be taken with any medication, particularly if children are around. Keeping anti-epileptic and any other drugs locked away or in out of reach cupboards is one consideration. A drug wallet (available from pharmacies) can be helpful as it can be clearly seen if medication has been taken or not.
WHAT ABOUT IN THE KITCHEN?
There are always potential dangers in the kitchen. Microwave ovens are now widely used and many people consider them to be safer than conventional ovens, as well as more practical. Using plastic microwave containers rather than using glass dishes is a consideration.
If using conventional cooking methods, standard precautions such as turning pan handles away to minimise the risk of knocking the pan from the cooker, using the back rings or burners rather than those at the front, grilling food rather than frying and if possible using a cooker on which the heat can be turned off quickly, e.g. gas or a halogen hob, can reduce the risk of injury.
Other things to consider include
- Minimising distances of carrying hot food – take cup to kettle and plate to pan
- Cordless irons
- Cordless automatic kettles with safety lid and safety automatic cut out
- Cooker guards*
- A trolley to transfer food and hot dishes from the oven to the table
- Avoiding eye level grills
Using a tumble dryer means you can avoid large amounts of ironing.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN I AM OUTSIDE THE HOME?
People with uncontrolled epilepsy may choose to wear or carry with them something that says they have epilepsy. Bracelets and necklaces are available to buy from some companies, contact Epilepsy Wales for brochures. Issues of safety relating to sports or activities outside the home are dealt with in our Epilepsy and Leisure leaflet.
Safety is an important consideration for everyone. People whose seizures are not fully controlled may need to take extra care, but people with epilepsy can live as full and active a life as anyone else.
HOME RISK ASSESSMENTS
GP’s and Epilepsy Specialist nurses can arrange home visits to identify risks and advise on modifications.