Creating a Safe Home Environment
By Steven Wolf, MD and Patty McGoldrick, NP

Home is usually considered a place of comfort and safety. But it could also present danger or difficulty to your child with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). Luckily, there are things you can do to make your home life safer and easier.

Secure dangerous items

When you think of things that might cause a person injury at home, be sure to consider things like knives or tools like hammers or saws. These should be kept out of reach of someone with LGS. Using or even handling one while a person is having a seizure could result in serious injury.

But since people diagnosed with LGS may have varying levels of cognitive impairment,1 other things in your home may also be potentially harmful for your child. For instance, medications including those that your child with LGS is taking, or other family members’ medications, should be kept out of reach, locked in a safe place.

Minimizing mobility issues

Staircases

If your child has balance issues or difficulty walking, handrails on all staircases might offer the stability your child needs when climbing or descending. For more protection, place a gate at the top or bottom of the stairs. These may prevent access and limit the likelihood of a fall.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms, too, present possibilities for trips, falls, and injuries, but there are things you can do to make them safer.

Replace shower doors with a shower curtain. A curtain makes it easier to get in and out of the shower and easier to help your child if he or she falls.2 Install tub rails and grab bars.2

In addition, place a shower chair in the tub, especially if your child falls during seizures. Install a handheld nozzle to make it easier for your seated child to wash.2

Access to your house

To prevent trips on stairs coming into the house, install ramps.

Bedrooms

Beds should be low. This will make it easier for your loved one to get in and out. If your loved one has frequent seizures or is prone to seizures at night, be sure the floor around the bed is padded.3

Exceptional Parent Magazine is a good source of information about equipment to make your home safer and easier. The American Epilepsy Society Web site, the Epilepsy Foundation and The Human Epilepsy Project also have useful information.

Other helpful tips to maintain a safe home:

  • Stoves should have locks so that burners are not inadvertently turned on
  • Pots and pans on the stove should be placed with their handles turned inward
  • Hot water should have an upper temperature limit to avoid scalding
  • Windows should have safety bars or screens
  • To minimize the risk of head injuries from drop seizures, your child should wear a helmet
  • Everyone involved with your child should be knowledgeable about seizure first aid
  • Seizure alarms and monitors are available and should be used. These include watches and motion detectors. Baby monitors can also be used
  • Nightlights or motion activated lights are helpful to avoid disorientation in the dark

Maintaining a sense of independence

Your loved one with LGS may always need some amount of help. But there are things you can do to give him or her a sense of independence.

Keep the items that he or she will need for daily living accessible. This includes plates, cups, and silverware (all of which should be unbreakable), as well as toiletry articles.

Handling his or her own hygiene may also help your child feel more independent. To that end:

  • Provide your loved one with wipes
  • Give your loved one who needs to shave an electric razor. It’s easier to use than a regular razor
  • Make sure brushes and combs move easily through hair
  • Dress your loved one in clothes that are easy to get on and off so that he or she can dress and undress independently. These include clothes with zippers, snaps, and Velcro instead of buttons and laces

It’s true that this may seem like a lot of changes. These modifications may present inconveniences for other family members who do not have LGS. But with these concerns addressed, your loved one and family may all find home to be a bit safer and more comfortable.

Dr Wolf and Ms McGoldrick run a collaborative partnership in the care of people with epilepsy at a comprehensive epilepsy center in New York.

Dr Wolf and Ms McGoldrick are paid consultants of Eisai Inc.

References:
  1. Arzimanoglou A, French J, Blume WT, et al. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome: a consensus approach on diagnosis, assessment, management, and trial methodology. Lancet Neurol. 2009;8(1):82-93.
  2. Schachter SC, Shafer PO, Sirven JI. Safety at home. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsy.com/get-help/staying-safe/safety-home. Accessed July 20, 2017.
  3. Schachter SC, Shafer PO. Safety while sleeping. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsy.com/get-help/staying-safe/safety-while-sleeping. Accessed July 20, 2017.

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