There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Good Friday to you, my friends! Another week buzzes by like a cicada drinking Red Bull. Mom is still about the same. Her blood oxygen sat. is still holding its own in the mid-90s after a couple weeks of scares. She eats, and eats most of her stuff, albeit slowly. She is in no obvious pain. All things considered, she has had it worse than now. 🙂
My topic du jour is tied to an event that happened a couple of days ago while picking up my son with the always elegant and luxurious Tempo One. We were driving through a rare, but strong rain, and I had my window rolled down (getting damp) as I am wont to do, when all of the sudden “WHACK!!!!” something smacked me on the cheek harder than seeing the price of eggs did me at Wal-Mart the other day…and that was hard. 🙂
Swerving a tad, I kept the white beast on track and worked my way home. At some point my son found the projectile: a cicada Kamikazed me through the rain like a bug-eyed missile. Here he is/was:
He got me thinking about dementia as I pondered the many interesting stuff about him/them. (I use this gender carefully accepting that I personally cannot gender a bug, but I assumed, by his behavior, that only a guy bug would attack Tempo One and its driver in that way.)
Here are some fun facts about cicadas and how they relate to dementia…because this is, after all, a blog about such. Many of these come from Tree Hugger, but some come from the Smithsonian (links to both below for your viewing pleasure)
- Cicadas Live on All Continents Except Antarctica– They dig it in the warm, but they are found pretty much everywhere other than the place where it is just too darn cold. They love America! Tree Hugger tells us: “There are more than 170 described species throughout the U.S. and Canada, and the U.S. alone is home to 15 “broods” (groups of cicadas with varying life cycles).” Similarly, Antarctica may very well be the only continent with zero cases of dementia. There are no permanent residents on the icy, bottom of the globe spot. There are between 1000 and 5000 there at any give time, largely for research, but nobody lives there 24/7/365. For the same reason, the region also has had zero babies die…a 0% infant mortality rate out of 11 total births! Impressive, although, should one pass away at birth, the rate will jump to nearly 10% and there will be demands for immediate government action and congressional investigations as to why the infant mortality rate suddenly exploded by this percentage. Meanwhile, millions quietly die in nursing hokes with no visitors, little human interaction, and little or no love. We need a cure, friends! For cicada’s future expansion into Antarctica’s sake if nothing else.
- They’re Not Locusts…and just might be offended by the insinuation that they are– From Treehugger: “That cicadas are often called locusts is deceiving, as they hail from the taxonomic order Hemiptera (true bugs) and locusts belong to the order Orthoptera with grasshoppers. A few behavioral and physical attributes could be the culprit of the misnomer. Firstly, cicadas share a suborder with other “hoppers” of the leaf and frog variety, even though they don’t hop themselves. Secondly, their tendency to swarm is similar to the locust’s. Experts estimate that when the 17-year broods emerge in the U.S., they’re as concentrated as 1.5 million cicadas per acre. One difference, beyond their scientific classifications, is that cicadas pose little to no risk to crops and vegetation, whereas a swarm of locusts can consume the same amount of food as 35,000 people in a single day.” Note also, there are dozens of treatable, non-life altering illnesses and conditions that mimic dementia. Don’t assume that because your grandpops forgot where he parked at Wal-Mart that he has dementia. I do that all the time. However, if he forgets what he drives, how to drive, or how to get home, we have a problem. When in doubt, talk to your primary care physician. No sense making a locust out of a cicada! Here are the warning signs: LINK
- Lifespans vary– From Treehugger again: “An annual cicada can live between two and five years, and a periodical cicada can live for up to 17 years in the larva stage. That’s not quite as long as queen termites are thought to live (50 to 100 years), but it’s far more impressive than the average life span of a housefly (15 to 30 days). Cicadas, like most insects, live the majority of their lives in the immature stages of development. While some can remain underground for more than a decade, they typically die only a few weeks into adulthood.” Similarly, a patient dementia can have a lifespan of up to 20 years(!). My mom was diagnosed over 13 years ago. Sadly, though, many suffer alone or with only a spouse, partially because of the stigma of the disease. We all need to make our world more dementia friendly. Here are some tools to that end: LINK Another note: The pathology of the disease may very well start many years BEFORE the onset of symptoms. We all, me included, need to take care of our heart, which will, in turn, help our brain.
- There is strength in numbers! – From Treehugger again: “It’s unclear how many cicadas are included in a single brood, but experts estimate that there are billions. Their portly bodies blanket backyard tree trunks. Their collective songs impede outdoor conversation. Cicadas are known swarmers, but their synchronized emergence is actually a deliberate survival strategy called predator satiation. When an animal occurs at such a high-density population, predators quickly become satiated, therefore increasing the chances of survival for a large percentage of young.” Want to have the best results, if you will, in caregiving? I mean, who wouldn’t??? Don’t go it alone! Get yourself a little brood of caregiver helpers and assign tasks. You need a break to do your best and this will help. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a swarm to take care of a loved one with dementia!
- They Only Emerge When the Ground Is 64 Degrees (Treehugger, yet again)- These critters are such creatures of habit, some how, some way they know when the ground hits exactly 64 degrees before they exit the ground and share their song. That is except Chester Cicada who insists he is supposed to wait until the ground hits 64 degrees Celsius. He is still waiting and complaining about the younger cicada’s new music. Folks with dementia are not quite as fine tuned, perhaps, but they are creatures of habit to the extreme. They thrive with routine and struggle with change. Anything you can do to make things require fewer decisions on critical matters the better. You want them to have an active, engaged mind, but there are challenges caused by the anxiety of failure that make this an even bigger challenge. Trust me…try to find a routine. One more thing: Isolation is something they also have in common. A significant portion of their life, as mentioned here and many other times: alone.
- Weird Foods- (Treehugger) “While underground, cicada larvae aren’t hibernating; rather, they spend up to 17 years just feeding on trees. They have special straw-like mouths used to suck liquid from plant roots. What they’re really after is xylem, a botanical vascular tissue that helps conduct water and dissolved minerals from the roots. Because xylem tissue is mostly water, cicadas are thought to be malnourished — which could be the reason for their slow maturation. Molting cicadas that live on small twigs can kill juvenile trees and shrubs, but mature trees welcome the pruning.” Hmmmm…not exactly comfort foods. I guess they eat what’s available. This may be a dissimilarity from dementia although stopping eating, or at least struggling to get the right nourishment is similar. Expect taste changes with people with dementia. A couple things I have noticed in common though: Coffee and sweets. My mom would mix her foods like crazy trying to find just the right blend. Here was an article discussing such: LINK
- They Abandon Their Skins– We have all seen cicada skins stuck to trees. Most little boys have chased little girls around with said shell. Treehugger puts it this way: “By the end of a cicada summer, billions of translucent skins called exuviae will blanket tree trunks even after their hosts have died off. Shedding these skins is the first order of business after emerging from the ground. Once emancipated from their final nymph casing, they must wait for their wings to inflate with fluid and their new skins to harden. Only then can they go about singing and mating through their fast-and-furious period of adulthood.” Sadly, the numbers and the physical shell of a person are the similarities here. Millions suffering and declining every year. It is shocking seeing the change in just a handful of years. Here is a before and after of mom, currently a shell of her once robust self:
- Their song– Did you know that the collective song of cicadas can rival a chainsaw? A rock concert? Treehugger says “Those in cicada-prone areas know to schedule weddings and other outdoor parties around active seasons due to the insects’ deafening songs. Only males make this familiar cricket-like noise (hence the name “cicada,” meaning “tree cricket” in Latin) — they do it by rubbing their wings together and using a special organ on their exoskeleton called a tymbal, which creates a series of rapid clicks. They produce two sounds: one to attract mates and another to repel predators. Their songs can reach 120 decibels — which is as loud as a chainsaw and even louder than live rock music — and can be heard up to a mile away. Naturally, a group of cicadas singing is called a chorus. Here are some examples: LINK and LINK The screaming is deafening. In dementia, the silence is equally deafening. Take a look at the numbers: LINK We need a cure…and we need it now.
- (Smithsonian) Cicada KIllers (This is pretty gross….)- “In the summertime, solitary, up to two-inch-long wasps called cicada killers are as single-minded as their name suggests. After mating, females take to the skies to do nothing but hunt bumbling cicadas. When a female cicada killer grapples with her quarry in mid-air, she uses a honking, needle-sharp stinger to pierce the cicada’s hard exoskeleton and inject a venom that paralyzes the victim. The wasp then has the task of getting the considerably larger, heavier cicada back to her burrow, which can be up to 70 inches long. After dragging her immobilized prey into a special chamber she’s hollowed out along her burrow, the female wasp lays a single egg on the cicada and seals the chamber’s entrance. In two or three days, the larval wasp will hatch and begin eating the paralyzed cicada alive over the course of a week or two. For eggs destined to produce another female cicada killer, the body count is even higher: mother wasps will provision them with two or three paralyzed cicadas. The larvae are said to hold off on chewing through the cicada’s nervous system until the bitter end to keep their meal alive as long as possible.” There are many things that can kill a person with dementia. Choking/aspirating food is a biggie. Infection, another biggie. System failure happens. Refusing to/inability to eat is a huge one. There is not one predator, but many. Did I mention we need a cure?
Here are the links I have already cited in case you missed them: https://www.treehugger.com/cicada-facts-5120497 and https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/14-fun-facts-about-cicadas-180977361/
My mom really loved to camp and explore nature and I feel confident she would love to tell some cicada stories had the situation been different. I do know she would have laughed had she saw me get whacked by the cicada as I drove…and we would have laughed together…then she would have asked if I was ok and helped however she could.
Stinkin’ disease. 🙁
Bonus from Crosswalk:
Cicadas in Mythology
Cicadas have shown up in Native American folklore and ancient Greek literature. They were believed to bless the crops by bringing abundance. The critters usually showed up around the time the bean crops were ready for harvest, thus the superstition was connected to the appearance of the insects. In some cases, the bugs were ground into powder and used on injured warriors as they were thought to have healing powers. The Hopi believed their ancestor had insect form and was called cicada kachina, or spirit-being.
The hump-backed flute player, Kokopellie, has been described as influenced by cicadas and is often seen on Native American pottery found in the southwest United States.
The ancient Greeks thought the bugs symbolized immortality due to their development underground. They saw this as a picture of rebirth.
Eastern cultures also saw the shedding of the nymph’s skin as a symbol of rebirth. Cicadas carved from jade have been found from the Han Dynasty dating back to 1500 B.C. They would place these figurines on the tongues of the dead in the hopes of a resurrection.
Last but certainly not least, here is my Walk to End Alzheimer’s Team page should you want to join or contribute. Not much more than 6 weeks away!
Stop by and look. 🙂