Pest infestations can happen even in the cleanest of facilities, and the solution is not always easy or inexpensive. No matter the size or location of your facility, creating pest prevention protocols and implementing a management system will prove to be valuable in detecting any issue before it becomes a major health or monetary concern. Take a look at all the benefits of assisted living pest prevention, the common types of pests found in communities, and solutions to help keep them away.

Benefits of Pest Prevention in Assisted Living

Creating an integrated pest management (IPM) system for your community is vital to keep health threats at a minimum. Pests contaminate surfaces, medical supplies, and equipment. They can also cause an array of health issues for anyone, though it may be worse for seniors with compromised immune systems. Here are just some of the benefits of establishing pest prevention in your facility.

Minimize Pest Infestation Risk

By staying ahead of pest issues and becoming aware of preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of infestation. If you do happen to have a pest issue, you also have a better chance of catching it early. You can take care of any problems in a confined environment without having to evacuate your entire facility.

Maintain a Cleaner Facility

Pest control for assisted living facilities should start with an understanding of the responsibilities of housekeeping and a detailed housekeeping schedule. By establishing sanitary pest prevention protocols and ensuring staff thoroughly cleans each room, you can keep your facility spotless. As a bonus, extreme cleanliness is also a great selling point when trying to gain referrals to your community.

Improve Quality of Living for Residents

Establishing schedules and protocols for the cleaning of residents’ rooms and common areas can contribute to a more positive overall quality of life. Residents will appreciate the extra care given in making their “home” not only look nice, but smell good too!

Common Types of Pests

There are several common household pests that are known to make themselves at home in senior living communities. Take a look at the pests that tend to cause the most issues.

Bed Bugs

close up of bed bug

  • General Overview: These pests feed on any kind of blood, but prefer human blood. They tend to hide in places where they have quick access to their food sources such as beds, sofas, and chairs. Once they’ve fed, they retreat to their hiding spots, making it harder to identify when an infestation is occurring.
  • Appearance: Bed bugs vary in color, but will have a red-colored center if they’ve fed recently. As they progress in age, they tend to darken to a reddish-brown color. They are very small in size and only grow to be about 5 mm long.
  • How Infestation Occurs: These pests usually transport from place to place by stowing away in luggage or belongings. In senior living communities, infestation may occur after new residents move in or family and friends come to visit. That’s why it’s best to train your staff on how to effectively yet inconspicuously inspect furniture from a private residence.
  • Signs of Infestation: The most common signs of infestation can be seen on mattresses and chairs. You’ll often see blood spots, shedded skins, and fecal matter. Those who have been bitten may also develop a rash.


  • drawing of scabies itch miteGeneral Overview: Scabies is a type of mite that burrows into the upper layer of human or animal skin. They lay eggs and generally create an itching, pimple-like rash on those who have been infected. They spread rapidly in areas that harbor a lot of people, such as long-term care facilities.
  • Appearance: The mites are usually under 0.5 mm in size and may or may not be visible to the naked eye. When they are seen, they look to be small, white pinpoints.
  • How Infestation Occurs: Scabies can be transferred by prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. The mites can also spread indirectly through the sharing of clothing, towels, or bedding.
  • Signs of Infestation: Since an intense rash usually appears on those who are infected, scabies is able to be quickly and easily identified. Once identified, there are prescription products to treat the issue.


  • close up of cockroachGeneral Overview: These pests usually make themselves at home in dirty or unsanitary places, but can also infest even the cleanest of buildings. Some species can fly, but most of them prefer to crawl around. They usually hide in cracks, crevices, vents, sewers, and pipes.
  • Appearance: There are many different types of cockroaches, but most tend to grow anywhere from 1.5 inches to 2 inches in length. They’re oval in shape and have antennae. Typical cockroaches have a reddish-brown coloring.
  • How Infestation Occurs: Cockroaches tend to enter buildings from sewers and drains, though they may also come through cracks and holes in walls. When two or more enter your building, they can reproduce and worsen the infestation.
  • Signs of Infestation: Cockroaches usually move quickly and usually under the darkness of night. You’ll find their droppings in dim areas where they hide and you may find egg capsules near food sources.


  • close up of ants crawling on a floorGeneral Overview: Ants are usually just a nuisance, but certain types of ants can bite, which may result in individuals going into anaphylactic shock. They also often bring diseases with them wherever they go, putting your residents in danger of contracting illnesses.
  • Appearance: Ants are generally easy to spot thanks to their bent antennae and distinct body shape. They have large heads, segmented bodies, and six legs. Their coloring is dependent on the species.
  • How Infestation Occurs: Ants usually make their way into buildings through small openings and drains. The queen ant will mate and lay eggs inside the nest, and over time, thousands of new ants will hatch and create a larger infestation.
  • Signs of Infestation: Ants will usually make their way to food sources, which is why they often show up in kitchens or in areas in which food has been left out. If you have an infestation, you’ll most likely see them crawling around any area where food is permitted.


  • close up of flea on human skinGeneral Overview: Fleas are normally a red-brown color and can grow to be around 2 mm long. While they appear to “fly” through the air, these pests do not have wings. Instead, they have the ability to jump 80 times their height and 200 times their body length. They also carry many diseases such as bubonic plague, murine thyphus, and tularemia.
  • Appearance: Fleas are normally a red-brown color and can grow to be around 2 mm long.
  • How Infestation Occurs: You don’t need to have a resident cat or dog to encounter a flea infestation in your community. These pests can hitch a ride on a human transport. Flea larvae are capable of spinning a cocoon in which they can remain for months until they sense a host nearby. Once hatched, the fleas are hungry and ready to feast on blood of their prey.
  • Signs of Infestation: With an infestation, you’ll often see small, dark droppings called “flea dirt” on bedding, carpets, and rugs. Those who have been bitten by fleas will usually have red bumps on their skin that are itchy.


  • close up of flyGeneral Overview: While they might seem harmless enough, flies are known to carry bacteria and cause illnesses such as typhoid, cholera, and salmonella. Some types of flies also bite. If an infestation occurs, senior living residents may be at high risk of contracting these illnesses.
  • Appearance: There are many different types of flies and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They have wings and most species have hairy bodies.
  • How Infestation Occurs: Flies can make their way into buildings through open doors, windows, and cracks. They’ll create breeding areas and lay eggs that will eventually hatch into new flies that make the infestation worse.
  • Signs of Infestation: Flies are attracted to food and garbage, so you’ll often spot them in kitchens and dining areas.

Preventative Measures and Treatments for Pests

While the pest standards and laws can vary by state, it’s important to be aware of them.
To stay ahead of any pest problem, use the following to deter pests and prevent infestations in your community.

Thoroughly Train Your Front-Line Staff

Routine Cleaning & Maintenance

Your front-line employees are your first line of defense in maintaining a pest-free facility. This includes housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen and dining staff, and direct care staff. Training all employees and establishing policies and procedures for maintaining your facility will help deter infestations. Here are a few procedures that can help:

  • Observe residents’ rooms for empty snack wrappers, banana peels, apple cores, or dirty dishes. These often become smorgasbords for unwanted pests.
  • Ensure areas surrounding outside trash containers are free of debris and are tightly closed.
  • Kitchen employees should dispose of leftover food correctly.
  • Kitchen area should be swept and cleaned daily.
  • Openings around windows and the foundation of the building should be properly sealed.

Signs of Infestations & Health Risks

All staff should receive training on the importance of observing residents and immediately reporting any change in residents’ conditions. A rash on a resident’s leg could be a sign of fleas or bed bugs. Tiny brown spots on bed linens may also be a sign of bed bugs. Being observant and proactive will give you the upper hand in pest control.

Find The Source of Pest Entry

One of the best methods to use in addressing an infestation is figuring out how or where the pests are entering your building. Consider some of the following questions during this phase:

  • Has a new resident moved to campus recently? Did she bring along her own mattress?
  • Are there any residents that have family that bring their dog to visit?
  • Are there foundation cracks and crevices in the walls or between apartments?

When necessary, enlist the services of a qualified pest control specialist. Their experiences and knowledge of eco-friendly products should make treatment of infestations less disruptive to your residents and staff.

Utilize Canine Pest Scent Detection

K-9 bed bug scent detection is growing in popularity among businesses and senior living communities. Specially-selected dogs undergo hours and hours of comprehensive training to detect pests in any location. Since they can detect odors 10,000 times better than humans, they are able to sniff out live bed bugs and eggs. The benefit is that they can inspect for pests quickly and without disruption, which is incredibly important for any community that’s housing residents. They’re great for periodically testing for signs of bed bugs or locating hot spots in your building where many may be located. Once located, exterminators can use heat to kill the bed bugs. They’ll heat rooms or buildings to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, effectively eliminating live bed bugs.

Are you ready to begin creating and implementing a pest prevention system in your senior living community? Our Housekeeping in Assisted Living manual and our 2018 edition of A Management Reference for Executive Directors outline additional information to help you get started.