Termites, Parkinson’s and Executive Function

It’s always something.

~Gilda Radner

Termites are big headaches in Florida. As a general rule, termite season is in springtime, when the weather warms up enough for termites to “swarm”. They emerge from their mature colonies in the hundreds or thousands to establish new termite colonies. When they do, it is one of the few times when homeowners can easily see these normally hidden insects. I would find them flying around the kitchen in the evening. The counter top would be covered with larvae hatching and wings.

The effective way to get rid of them is to tent the house and have it fumigated. You can attempt to just treat the affected areas with injections. The problem with that method is the termites move around. They have lots of choices with an open wood beam ceiling in dining and living room and antique furniture. We had some beams treated a few years ago, but it did not get them. We also discovered powder post beetles were feasting at our house. The beetles were in the kitchen cabinets or beams above them. Although they do not swarm, they leave sawdust clues on top of the ceramic cook top. Powder post beetles compared to wood termites are slow eaters and will take many years for them to destroy an area. Tenting has been on the “A” to do list, but not eagerly scheduled!!

My Executive Function–No Problem

The tenting project is event coordination! This really means it deals with cognition. One of the most common cognitive changes associated with Parkinson’s is executive function. These functions include making complex decisions, keeping multiple things straight, organizing tasks and doing tasks in specific sequence. I am blessed that I do not have issues with executive function. I had to work out an acceptable schedule with the exterminating company depending on their tenting commitments, the vet for boarding Chauncey, Grace and Maggie Mae keeping in mind the business is closed on Mondays, Joe’s travel schedule and my doings. Then I had to make hotel reservations. That was just the beginning!

Why Does It Cost So Much?

A few days before the tenting date, the company owner brought by the contract and preparation instructions. Somehow, someway there was miscommunication, and the contract did not show treatment for powder post beetles. Well that takes ten times the amount of gas and possibly longer for gas to disappear. Normally with just wood termites, the tent goes on one morning, comes off the next morning and house is cleared for occupancy on third morning. Plus we have a no access crawl space and that was going to require extra attention to test for gas. Of course, the treatment for termites and beetles was more expensive and went from $1740 to $4376! So he had to return to office to get new contract typed up. But the staff was  gone for the day, and it took another day for that document to be finalized. Meanwhile I had to re-contact the hotel and vet to see if extending our accommodations was possible if needed. I started to look forward to our “termite getaway” and gathered up a stack of reading materials for poolside.

Preparing House for Tenting

We had to prepare the house. Joe spent many hours/days on the outside trimming vegetation away from foundation of house. He moved potted plants and decorative items.

Potted coleus plants at entry were moved

Window liner box of flowers lifted out

The day before evacuation all food items except canned goods had to be put in special plastic bags provided by company, double bagged, twisted and folded down tops and secured. That also included refrigerator and freezer items and the bags set back in refrigerator. My housekeeper helped me bag up the pantry. All my medications had to be removed from house and taken with me. We also had to slightly open every cabinet door and drawer about an inch throughout the house to help with the gas elimination.

Evacuation Day

On the “E” day, we had to be out of the house by 8:30 a.m. with suitcases and the three fur babies! I gathered up my clothes for packing the evening before, but I waited to bring out the suitcase until we had captured each cat and placed in carrying case. They are so intuitive when their routine is about to change and will hide under beds or crawl inside box springs. Today was not the day to tear a bed apart. Been there–done that! Whew!! Now you know why I really want to sit by pool and read and do nothing for the rest of my life!!

Always A Story

Convenience was at the top of my list in selecting our hotel accommodations. The hotel was just a couple miles from house and the vet was across the street from hotel. Buffet breakfast, parking and WIFI were offered free. We had a five-minute walk to a French cafe we love. Plus the hotel served dinner. The off season hotel rates were in effect. That’s the good part. The bad part was our room was literally the next to last one to be cleaned. Despite my best effort to get into the room early, that did not happen. The hotel offered to put us in a different room, (a smaller room), but for the same rate I’d already paid. What a deal! Since done online, they could not/would not change rate. So we waited and waited. We were both exhausted. We sat in small lobby for a while, but a hotel TV screen kept showing a lady relaxing in a luxurious bed. I couldn’t stand it!! Sitting in a shaded area by the pool provided a calmer respite.

After lunch we  drove by the house to see how it looked. Warning signs had been placed on the house.

Warning Sign

A slow drip of water was left on Christmas palm tree to help protect it. It’s the tree in the middle to right of vehicle. The  black olive tree on the far right in swale next to sidewalk was treated for termites last summer. Our arborist is trying to save it.

View from across street

Well, finally at 2:55 (5 minutes before check-in) our room was ready. When we got to the room, the door sign indicated Palm West Suite which I had not booked. I had reserved a regular room with a king bed. But we had a spacious bedroom, bath, plus a huge room with sitting and sleeper couch at one end and dining/kitchen at other!! What’s that saying…good things come to those who wait!!

During our stay, something was constantly not right or working. The staff seemed accustomed to operating this way, and apologies were not given. There were key card issues on multiple occasions. We asked for a non-skid bath mat the first evening . We were informed the housekeeping supervisor was off duty, and we would probably have to wait until the next day! Someone eventually brought us a mat the same evening. The restaurant door was stuck shut for breakfast one morning and a patron saw us trying to get in and helped us. He even informed the staff, but no one rushed to fix it. The business center was located next to a housekeeping closet and elevator and was so noisy that Joe gave up on it. The morning we had to request late check-out while we waited to hear if we could return to house had to be negotiated. New key cards had to be issued since they automatically stopped working at 11 a.m., but no one told us. The phone in our suite did not work. Someone came to look at it, tried another phone and decided AT&T would have to come out which they never did!

Back to Normal–Sorta!

Friday at 7:55 a.m., the tenting company called to say we were cleared to return! Yippee!! The process I described above was reversed. Except with food sacked up, you saw that the entire refrigerator needed to be washed down. Now when did I last do that? Well, probably, never!! So each shelf and drawer was removed and washed. I also cleaned and reorganized my pantry which is like a walk in closet with lots of stuff (including a bag of powdered sugar expiration July 2010!!) There are six shelves on two of the four walls, and you need a ladder to reach top shelf. I took the challenge to declutter. I donated a trunk load of serving items to my favorite thrift store.

Time to unpack refrigerator contents

I have lived on my street since 1980 and every house has been tented, some more than once. People often wait until they are ready to sell or in our case, just can’t stand it any longer. A few years ago the house behind us had a major renovation stalled when the contractor discovered a load-bearing wall was dangerously infested with termites in the middle of demolition!

Well, there you have it. Just part of Florida living ranking just below hurricanes for things I could do without! ​










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