The Birds and the Bees of Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

I love sitting outside on my porch in North Carolina and watching nature…and what safer way to watch nature than having a bird feeder or two? 

Or so I thought! birdfeeder-caring for those with dementia in summer

Both bird feeders were empty, so obviously those birds had been very hungry (or the squirrels well fed). In one fell swoop I grabbed the bird seed bag and opened the top of the bird house. That’s when I got swarmed.

And what did this quick-thinking nimble-bodied person do? I just stood there paralyzed, like a statue. It took me a few seconds for my brain to kick into gear. Bees sting…pain, shock….danger, run!!!!!

A New Reality: Outdoor Chores

Safely out of the bees way, a new reality hit me. I had filled the bird houses so many times before and never saw any bees. I only check for bees, wasps and hornets when I open the house, not if someone has been using it for a while.

That made me think of all the people with dementia who live alone and do outdoor chores by themselves. What we think is a harmless hobby (e.g., a bird feeder) can actually be a dangerous experience.

Insect Dangers and Remedies

bee

Did you know that wasps and bees cause 30-120 deaths in the U.S. each year? Me neither! 

And since you may have been stung years ago and forgotten about it, you may be at a more serious risk for anaphylactic shock. After a quick Google search, here is some information about that condition:

  • Fatal allergic reactions can occur as the first generalized reaction. Far more common, however, is a fatal reaction following a previous, milder generalized reaction.
  •  Generalized reactions may produce: hives,rash, wheezing, anxiety, confusion, chest pain and edema in the airways, tongue or uvula.
  •  The chance of dying is highest (50%) within 30 minutes of being stung and 75% will die after four hours. If stung, you should first remove the stinger then:

– Provide supplemental oxygen.
– Use Diphenhydramine (Benedryl) to limit the size of the local reaction.
– Clean the wound and remove the stinger if present.
– Apply ice or cool packs.
– Elevate the extremity to limit edema (swelling).
– Get to the Emergency Room.

If you spend time outdoors or live in a rural area ask your doctor for an RX EpiPen which is a dosage of epinephrine used as emergency treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions. Ask the doctor where the best place to inject and learn how to use it.

Don’t be sweet for bees.The experts say that to minimize your risk of being stung, avoid the use of flowery colognes, soaps and lotions, and don’t wear brightly colored clothing. Also, do not swat bees because that may further irritate them.

Finally, you should know that some hornets build nests in the ground, so be cautious when walking in woodland areas.

To learn more go to http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/768764-differential.

From here on out the only bee I want to see is Aunt Bee who retired to North Carolina!

 

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