New guidance for community nurses on supporting homeless people with epilepsy highlights “major challenges” in ensuring these vulnerable patients get the care they need.
The document, published by the Queen’s Nursing Institute, was produced in response to evidence that people who are homeless are at much greater risk of epilepsy.
“All people living with epilepsy have the right to excellent care”
A study in France found epilepsy was eight times more common among homeless people seeking medical help from a charity than in the general population, noted the institute.
Meanwhile, it said that UK charities working with the homeless have also reported epilepsy to be one of the most common conditions affecting clients.
However, it highlighted that there was also evidence that homeless people with epilepsy often struggled to access specialist care.
“There are major challenges in ensuring people who are homeless receive the care they need for their epilepsy,” said the QNI document, which is titled Working with Epilepsy and Homelessness.
Developed with the help of 10 epilepsy specialist nurses plus experts on healthcare for the homeless, it stressed the important role of frontline nurses in helping identify the condition, give basic advice and link people up with more specialist services.
It includes information about the causes of epilepsy, different types of seizures, first aid and treatment, as well as the practicalities of living with epilepsy when homeless – such as difficulties storing medication safely.
The guidance urged nurses to be “vigilant” and consider a diagnosis of epilepsy when homeless patients experienced seizures.
“Community nurses can also help by supporting people with their routines, and helping them know where to go for help,” stated the guidance.
Nurses can also encourage people to carry information about their condition and help assess their capacity to manage their own care, noted the QNI guidelines.
In addition, the guidance highlighted the need for specialist nurses and neurologists to find ways to reach and treat homeless patients.
‘It is time’ to tackle homeless health, say nurses
“Given the higher risks, and difficulties they have accessing secondary and tertiary care, epilepsy specialist nurses and neurologists should consider ways they can work with people who are homeless, by linking with local homelessness organisations,” it said.
The guidance was developed as part of the QNI’s Homeless Health Project, funded by The Monument Trust.
“Epilepsy diagnosis and ongoing treatment can be complex, and require multiple health appointments and tests,” said project manager David Parker-Radford.
“This means it is even more vital that epilepsy services find proactive ways to reach vulnerable high-risk people, including those who may not be registered with a GP,” he said.
“All people living with epilepsy have the right to excellent care and treatment – not only those with stable support and housing,” he added.