Summer is the season when seniors and family caregivers spend the most time outdoors. It is also the time of year when pests make their return to the Great Lake state. While the Zika virus is a big concern in some areas of the world, experts say Michigan isn’t one of them. Illnesses like West Nile and Lyme disease are more likely.

Weaker Immune Systems Put Seniors at Risk

Older adults and people with chronic illnesses are higher risk for insect -related illnesses because they often have weaker immune systems. This can be especially true when it comes to contracting the West Nile Virus.

Seasonal mosquito activity varies from year to year but mosquitoes in Michigan have been linked to illnesses such as West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Ticks are another pest to contend with. They are linked to both Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. In 2013, there were 165 human cases, an increase of nearly 60 percent from the previous year.

What can caregivers do to protect a Michigan senior loved one?

Experts say there are some easy ways you can keep a senior safe this summer.

On Guard against Summer Insects

  1. Bug Spray: Encourage your senior loved one to invest in a good quality insect repellant and to spray it on from head to toe when they will be outdoors. Search for brands with the either DEET or Picaridin as an ingredient.
  2. Avoid Potential Harbors: Brush piles, standing water and overgrown grass can all provide safe harbor for mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid walking near these types of areas.
  3. Vaccinate Pets: If you own horses, be certain they are up-to-date on vaccinations especially the West Nile virus and the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.
  4. Patio Fan: A sturdy outdoor fan that blows air around on your senior loved one’s patio can help keep ticks and mosquitoes away.
  5. Doors and Screens: Encourage your loved one to keep their exterior doors closed. Also be sure the screens on their windows and doors don’t have any holes. Both are good ways to prevent insects and bugs from getting in to their home.
  6. Tick Check: Make certain that everyone in the family —including your furry friends — has a head-to-toe tick check as soon as they come back inside.

Michigan’s Emerging Diseases project is asking for the public’s help in tracking the spread of the West Nile virus. If you spot dead birds in your area, please use their website to report it.

If you don’t already, please sign up to receive our blog updates. We share the latest research and findings on aging, caregiving and senior living every week!