If you happen to be anywhere near the downtown Toronto area or Niagara Falls on March 26th, you may be seeing the colour purple. That’s because March 26th has been designated Purple Day across the globe in honour of epilepsy awareness. Individuals are encouraged to wear purple clothing, local organizations host events, and this year two of our nation’s biggest landmarks will also be bathed in purple light to increase awareness of the need for research about epilepsy.
One in one hundred Canadians are affected by epilepsy and it is currently estimated that 300,000 Canadians are living with the disorder. The term epilepsy is derived from a Greek term for possession, as the Greeks believed the person affected was being overcome, seized or attacked. It is now understood that epilepsy is a neurological disorder that leads to brief disturbances in the typical electrical functions of the brain. These disturbances are characterized by sudden and brief seizures, which may vary in form or intensity for each person. For example, a seizure may appear as a brief stare, an unusual body movement, altered awareness or a convulsion.
Epilepsy is a chronic medical problem, but for many people it can be successfully treated through medication, a special diet regimen, or surgery. However, treatment is unique for each individual and must be tailored to their needs in order to be effective. Because of the unpredictable nature of epilepsy, it can disrupt a person’s routine and their ability to participate in their desired daily activities. For some, they may experience changes in their thinking, energy levels, coping skills, or feelings of self-esteem and in some cases, postural deformities such as contractures may develop.
Occupational therapists can assist those with epilepsy and their families to improve their independence and enhance their participation in daily tasks. Occupational therapists may provide advice or education in regards to safety such as how to adapt potentially unsafe areas of the home like the kitchen and bathroom or support medication adherence and management. They can also recommend equipment and devices that can be used at home and in the community to enhance safety. OTs can assist with developing social skills and coping strategies that may be affected as a result of epilepsy and can also help by examining and addressing sensory integration challenges like sensitivity to light or noise. Another common area occupational therapists address involves developing strategies to increase organization and enhance routines to support a person’s performance at home, school or in the community. Using their task analysis skills and their holistic and individualized approach, Occupational Therapists are well suited to help individuals with epilepsy and their families find a variety of options and ways to be able to achieve their goals and fully engage in everyday life.