June 10, 2019

Fifty-Year Follow-Up of Childhood Epilepsy Reveals a Balancing Act Between Managing Epilepsy and Not Being Restricted by Epilepsy

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to explore and describe the experience of a childhood diagnosis of epilepsy and its consequences for the experiences of daily life over a span of 50 years.

METHODS: A descriptive mixed method design was chosen. Data were collected through a survey returned by 86 persons (59% response rate) who had received diagnoses of epilepsy as children. The survey contained questions about education, vocation, family status, and included the 14-item Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD). Additionally, interviews (n = 11) were conducted and analyzed by interpretative description.

RESULTS: Few persons reported that the childhood diagnosis of epilepsy had affected their choice of education, work, or leisure activities. However, 20% reported that the diagnosis had caused problems in school or at work and had restricted their activities of daily living. Sixty-six percent of the participants were married, and 68% had children; of those, 12 (20%) reported that one or more of the children had also had seizures. Almost all reported no anxiety (82%) and no depression (90%). The results of the interviews revealed a balancing act between ‘Controlling and managing the situation’ and ‘Not being restricted by the condition’.

SIGNIFICANCE: This long-term follow-up over a 50-year life-span of persons who received childhood diagnoses of epilepsy suggests that the consequences for education, work, and leisure activities were few. Most of the participants had developed strategies to manage their situation.

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