Kent was called out to perform a bed bug inspection in a home where two elderly people lived. As he approached the front door, his detection dog Alphy immediately started to go berserk. Even with a closed door it was obvious through the dog’s demeanor that he smelled the presence of bed bugs through the threshold.
He knocked and as the door opened, the rank pungent smell that is normally associated with serious infestations nearly knocked him over and what he saw he explained was like something out of a horror movie. His eyes immediately glanced over thousands of blood drips from full bellied smashed bed bugs covering the walls and floors.
Both the husband and wife appeared like skeletons with deep set cavernous eyes, pale graying skin and physically resembled emaciated prisoners of post war with bed bugs crawling all over their clothing. They were dressed head to toe in pants and long sleeve shirts, wearing rubber gloves on their hands and one gallon zip lock bags on their feet both duck taped to their wrists and ankles to avoid the bites of bed bugs.
Hidden behind the front door of this thousand square foot home were literally hundreds of thousands of bed bugs. Kent hesitantly walked further into the home carefully watching every step he made. When he reached the bedroom he glanced at what was probably the original feeding ground at one time with blood bath soaked sheets.
Our senior generation is growing at a faster rate than the total population in almost all regions of the world. With this comes failing eye sight, dementia and mental decline, physical handicaps, loneliness and depression and lower limited incomes. Because of this it’s more often that bed bugs go unnoticed or treated for greater lengths of time. Many seniors are lonely and depressed and still live in their homes or apartments with very few visitors. Unfortunately this segment of seniors may have challenges with eye sight and can barely see, they may not shower for months on end, may eat spoiled food, physically can’t or don’t clean or change their sheets, clutter is piled sky high and their quality of life is dismal compared to younger days. Now add bed bugs to the equation as a constant blood meal and see how it changes the dynamics of these situations.
What Kent observed and expressed to me about these emaciated looking people went beyond just dealing with a bed bug infestation. Although they may have still had somewhat active life styles, they certainly looked much older as being fed on by bed bugs had taken a serious toll on their bodies.
When being a sole feeding source for thousands of bed bugs over a long period of time, the body can lose enough red blood cells to cause a condition called anemia. Anemia is a common condition in which blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells and if not diagnosed and treated can be life threatening and can lead to more physical problems including strokes and heart problems. Many older adults already have medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, kidney failure, cancer, diabetes and are at increased risk for this.
Who knows the actual reasons why this couple allowed this problem to accelerate to unfathomable proportions - the shame of all this is - these types of situations are not as rare as we think and doesn’t have to happen.
I urge people to TAKE BED BUGS SERIOUSLY at the first sign of them.
How many people sit silently not letting anyone know about their bed bug problem? Caregivers for the elderly are at risk while visiting seniors with infestations, picking up bed bugs and spreading them to unsuspected others.
For those who know or work with elderly people, have an aging parent who might not be able to look after themselves; visit them with the intent of looking for signs of bed bugs and certainly reach out and call someone who can help before they get out of hand.