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Coexisting with summer critters

June 24, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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As a quadriplegic I am not able to shoo bugs away. That makes them even peskier. When I moved to a nursing home, I had little concern about spiders and insects getting to me. During the warm weather the lawn was treated monthly with fertilizer, weed killer, and insecticide. I seldom saw critters in my room. But to make sure I put up a pest strip which scared away insects and mosquitoes.

When the lawn was no longer being treated, residents saw more critters. Flies could cling to us in the summer even if the facility sprayed indoors and out. Since flies and mosquitoes can drive me nuts, a few times each summer a friend would spray my room with insect killer to control the critter population.

Spiders have always scared me. But when I was growing up I learned to kill them. There were always small spiders and large wolf spiders that made staff and residents cringe.

I learned to stay calm when a wolf spider crawled into my bathroom. Since the aides were usually in other rooms, I could not just yell "spider" and have one come and kill it. I took deep breaths to keep my "scary spider syndrome" at bay until an aide came in and dispatched it. Many times the spider was gone when an aide got there.

At this facility, even with spraying, critters remain. The other night an aide killed a cricket under my bed, and then realized that killing a cricket is supposed to be bad luck.

Sometimes when I ask particular aides to kill a bug or spider, they shiver and say they are too afraid to do it. Usually after I beg that I do not want to be bitten, a nurse or aide will usually grab a shoe and hit the spider. I know from experience that spider bites are very uncomfortable.

There are few nontoxic products available to get rid of insects. Citronella candles are not allowed and plug-in vibration devices designed to run off critters, do not work as well as advertised. I have suggested that insect and spider spray is available for staff use. That way they can get rid of the critters from a distance.

I keep insect repellent by my bed. So if flies or mosquitoes are particularly aggravating, I ask the aides spray my bedclothes. Although I do not like the smell, the repellent is pretty effective.    

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...