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The experience of epilepsy in later life : a qualitative exploration of illness representations

Yennadiou, Haris; Wolverson, Emma


Haris Yennadiou

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Dr Emma Wolverson
Reader in Ageing and Dementia. Research Lead for Dementia UK.


The objective of this study is to explore how older people living with epilepsy appraise their condition through their lived-experience. The common-sense model of illness representations (CSMIR) provides a framework to explain how individuals make sense of and manage health threats. Semi-structured in-depth interviews based on the CSMIR were conducted with ten people with epilepsy who were above the age of 65. The results were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Three overarching themes emerged from the analysis: ‘the power of epilepsy’, ‘they say you can live a normal life but you can’t’ and ‘attempts to adjust and cope’. Epilepsy was described as a threatening, persistent and unpredictable condition associated with distressing experiences. Participants described a process of balancing negative psychosocial consequences including stigma, loss of control and reliance on other people and medication with parallel co-existing coping strategies. These attempts to manage the condition were characterised by a desire for acceptance and increased awareness of epilepsy, strategies to restore loss of control and strength derived from supportive relationships. We conclude that there is large scope for psychosocial interventions in healthcare provision for this patient group. The role of specialist nursing, relationship-centred models, psychotherapy, educational and self-management programmes is highlighted.


Yennadiou, H., & Wolverson, E. (2017). The experience of epilepsy in later life : a qualitative exploration of illness representations. Epilepsy and Behavior, 70(A), 87-93.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 8, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 13, 2017
Publication Date 2017-05
Deposit Date Feb 16, 2017
Publicly Available Date Apr 17, 2018
Journal Epilepsy & behavior
Print ISSN 1525-5050
Electronic ISSN 1525-5069
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue A
Pages 87-93
Keywords Epilepsy; Older people; Lived experience; Illness representations; Interpretative phenomenological analysis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Epilepsy & behavior, 2017. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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