The aim of this study was to investigate how parents cope with and care for a child with Dravet syndrome, a severe myoclonic epilepsy with three distinct stages. Twenty-four parents of children with Dravet syndrome participated in a semi-structured interview and 17 completed the Impact of Childhood Neurologic Disability Scale (ICND) questionnaire. Children included 11 males and 13 females aged 2 to 24 years (mean age 10y 2mo [SD 5y 8mo]). Stage 1 of the syndrome was generally very difficult. Uncertainty about the diagnosis was the primary cause of stress. Seizure control was worst during this time. The primary concern in Stage 2 remained seizure control but developmental, behavioral, and sleep issues also emerged. Negative effects were noted in parents' relationships with others. Stage 3 brought better seizure control but decreased cognitive level, increased behavioral problems, and increasing social isolation for parents. Respite and relief care were hard to obtain at each stage. ICND scores mirrored the findings of the interviews. The three stages of Dravet syndrome present serious challenges for parents. Seizures are persistent and severe but developmental, behavioral, and sleep issues add to the stress. In the absence of successful medical treatment for Dravet syndrome, further attention needs to be paid to helping families cope with the disorder.
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