Bed bugs and the disabled

by nobugsonme on May 14, 2008 · 3 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs and people with disabilities, canada, manitoba

John Mohan, CEO of Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, wrote this moving article about the challenges of a woman with an intellectual disability who he knew as a helpful volunteer in his organization:

The intellectually challenged woman who had been part of our lives for the past two years exists in a complicated, yet porous social safety net. Living semi-independently, she has access to a support worker about four hours a week who helps with everything from shopping to doctor appointments to hygiene to money management to just talking with her on the phone when she’s lonely.

But this is a bed bug website, so you know where I am headed, right?

Yes, she got bed bugs.

Mohan noted how devastating bed bugs were to this woman:

It’s hard to give quality care for someone who has the mental development of a six-year-old in just four hours a week. When her apartment was overrun with bedbugs, all her belongings were thrown out without proper explanation to her. She had to start all over again, including relocating.

This bed bug case may have been mismanaged. In most instances, throwing everything out is not a good idea. It is not necessary, costs the resident a lot of money and heartache, and doesn’t actually solve the problem. It also can help spread the bed bugs to surrounding neighbors. Most PCOs we know don’t tell people to throw everything away, but instead treat mattresses and furniture, direct people to encase their mattress, and give instructions on how to wash and dry clothing, so most or all belongings can be saved.

To throw away a disabled person’s things without even explaining it to her is simply horrible.

Besides the need for thoughtful and proper bed bug treatment, this heartbreaking story also reminds us of the need for better emergency social services for people with bed bugs.

It is not just people with intellectual challenges, as this woman, who might need extra help with preparing for bed bug treatment. The elderly and physically challenged also need help with prep (decluttering, obtaining and fitting mattress encasements, washing and storing belongings, etc.).

Four hours a week of assistance might be reasonable for normal circumstances, but this woman needed a lot more help during her bed bug infestation. With proper assistance, this infestation would not probably have been so devastating.

1 paulaw0919 May 15, 2008 at 10:27 am

This is so unfair and unbelievable that this is happening all over, not just in major cities. the fact that the government has not taking serious immediate action by now is despicable.
I was venting my opinion on newyorkvsbedbugs today and since it somewhat fits the topic here, I decided to paste it here.

One major problem with this bug is that there is no easy way to rid them. Experts state that 50% of the population do not react to the bites. Out of the 50% that DO react to the bites, I would guess only 50% of THOSE people are attempting to rid them, protect themselves and the spread. There are many thousands of people that are spreading these bugs unknowingly and knowingly even. The numbers of reports are way off in that so much of the population not reacting alone….

Detection of this bug, even by professionals is very very difficult. People have hired PCO’s gotten inspections, come up with nothing and then about a month later when the infestation is really bad, the home owner finally finds a bug. At this point it’s too late, infestation is bad, spread through out the home, car and most likely their job as well. It’s a very sad and unbelievable situation for todays time.

In severe infestations, even when you have an experienced PCO, ridding them 100% is very very difficult and many times when you think they are totally gone, they are not. This also continues the spread of the bugs because by the time the person realizes the bugs are still there (due to no early detection) it’s too late.

In addition, after families spending all that they have on many pesticides in the home, still getting bit, ridding expensive furniture, belongings, living out of plastic for months and months….it would help the economy greatly IF a reliable pesticide were to come on the market, use it once and that’s it. No more mountains of plastic, furniture going to the dumps, less amounts of pesticides going into the environment. This epidemic is greatly hurting our environment due to resistance and pesticide treatment methods available.

Lastly and just as important. The psychological impact on people effected is truly devastating. I don’t think it’s just because there are bugs eating at you while you sleep. That’s just the beginning. If it was possible to just prep and treat and be done with it, that would be a God send. The bigger impact is from the living in an infested environment for a long period time during these months of repeated treatments, slowly ridding everything you own due to infestation and/or decluttering for these treatments. The experience is much like going through a fire or flood in the home but much much worse. You yourself is the one ridding, decluttering, walls, floors and items get permanently damaged from mishandling from techs and pesticides. This problem sucks every penny out of you and none of it is covered by insurance. I would believe there are many families eventually on the street due to the economics of this. If having to make a choice, I would much rather lose my home, belongings to a fire. It happens in one day, you can collect under insurance and slowly recover your life.

With this epidemic and how much it has already spread, it takes months to rid the bug, then you go to a movie, restaurant, or child comes home from school and it starts all over again. How is a family to recover financially from something that doesn’t end? Having peace and safety from this is now at an end.

Now for some rambling….How is one to treat non treatable items? Computers, toys, etc…the answer is, unless you get fumigated with vikane, you cannot. You bag these items for 18 months or rid the item. This effects how children learn, people work, everything one does in a normal environment.How is one to recover this expense? Shame on the US for having let this get so far and so many thousands of people suffering.

Many “signs” show that my family may have gotten these bugs once again. If this shows to be true, then we are all in big trouble because all I’ve done is shop at the mall and go to eat at some restaurants. I believe that if major steps and changes aren’t made soon, unless we live in a bubble, everyone will be living out of plastic and will have bedbugs unfortunately. The bugs are already in thousands of work places and now even reported on public transportation! In other countries it has reported to have bed bugs out scurring during the day on trains! How to people NOT bring these things home. They just do, like it or not. Even if they desperately try not to.

Yes awareness is critical. Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the iceburg due to politics and the all mighty dollar. I hope there’s a day when some one with the political capabilities is man enough to do the right thing and resolve this.

Rural area NJ, single family home.

2 jeannie May 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

I am going through exactly what you described. Single disabled parent- these bugs are sucking our lives away. I have no money and when i do get my disability check a big portion is for these infernal bed bugs. I am devastated. what can we do? How do we recover? I am heart-sick. I wish we could run away, start anew. I have no way to do anything meanningful. Everyday i am at it. Scrubbing and vaccuming. Endless wash and poisons. I found one crawling on my prosthetic leg. I feel horrid for my sons. No more sleepovers. We feel stigmatized and dirty. no one is addresasing what has clearly surpassed epidemic stages in san francisco. I am exhausted my kids have bags under there eyes and there is no end in sight. this heat wave we are in has turned my apartment into a bug-house. I do not love my home anymore. S.O.S.

3 nobugsonme May 17, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Hi Jeannie,

As you can guess, I have no great solutions. I hope you are getting the help of a knowledgeable professional.

Please come to the forums:

You will find that many will understand and have supportive advice there.

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