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Older Adults and New-Onset Epilepsy: Experiences With Diagnosis

Miller, Wendy R.; Buelow, Janice M.; Bakas, Tamilyn

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing:
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0000000000000032

ABSTRACT: Background and Purpose: The incidence of new-onset epilepsy is highest in older adults. Research has revealed that epilepsy diagnosis in older adults is difficult and often delayed. However, in-depth qualitative inquiry is needed to more richly describe older adults’ experiences with being diagnosed with epilepsy to reveal the context in which these delays occur and the effects on older adults. Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was used to describe the diagnosis experiences of 20 older adults with new-onset epilepsy. Semistructured interviews were used to generate data. All data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed via conventional content analysis. Results: A delayed diagnosis of epilepsy was pervasive in the sample, and participants attributed delays to both their actions and their care providers’ actions. Women experienced delays more often than men. Experiences of those whose diagnoses were not delayed are also discussed. Research using larger and more diverse samples is needed to investigate the scope of diagnosis delays in this population as well as to design interventions to improve the diagnosis process for older adults with new-onset epilepsy.

Author Information

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Wendy R. Miller, PhD RN CCRN, at She is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Adult Health, Indiana University School of Nursing, Bloomington, IN.

Janice M. Buelow, PhD RN FAAN, is an Associate Professor at the Department of Adult Health (Chairperson), Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis, IN.

Tamilyn Bakas, PhD RN FAHA FAAN, is a Professor and PhD Program Coordinator at the Department of Adult Health, Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis, IN.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health: 1F31NR012114-01-02.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses