Elders with seizures might surprise you

Symptoms differ by age

Do you suspect your elder patient is having a seizure? "Remember that presenting clinical features differ between the old and young," says Alison Hofheinz, RN, MSN, CPNP, a clinical nurse specialist in Bronson Methodist Hospital's Trauma & Emergency Center in Kalamazoo, MI. Hofheinz says to keep in mind these three things, Hofheinz says:

  1. The elderly often present with vague complaints such as altered mental status, confusion, and memory difficulties.
  2. "This may lead to delays in diagnosis due to large differentials and multiple co-morbidities," says Hofheinz.

  3. Although complex partial seizures are the most common type of seizure in elders, they often lack the aura common with presentation in young people.
  4. "They may report non-specific prodromal symptoms such as dizziness," says Hofheinz.

  5. Automatisms occur less frequently, and postictal state and confusion might be prolonged.

Stephanie Bayma, RN, a seizure nurse at Bronson Neurology in Kalamazoo, says, "These differences may be related to the fact that often in the elderly, the complex partial seizures arise from the frontal lobe rather than the temporal lobe, as often is the case with their younger counterparts."


For more information on elders with seizures, contact:

  • Alison Hofheinz, RN, MSN, CPNP, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Trauma & Emergency Center, Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, MI. Phone: (269) 341-8964. Fax: (269) 341-8244. E-mail: hofheina@bronsonhg.org.