Bed bugs are not a pleasant topic but one that can be important among senior living communities. Although they were nearly eradicated for decades, many factors have contributed to a growing number of bed bug infestations since the early 2000s. And, because bed bugs thrive in close living environments, how to prevent bed bug infestations is a serious concern in most senior residences. The information we’re sharing will help your team understand the damage that bed bugs cause, identify signs of an infestation, and prevent the spread of bed bugs in your assisted living community.
Identifying Bed Bugs
Although they are very small (about the size of an apple seed), bed bugs can be detected by the naked eye. Adult bedbugs are flat, oval-shaped, and wingless insects that are reddish-brown in color. As their name implies, they mostly hide in the crevices of mattresses and bedding materials. However, they can also be found in other upholstered furniture and clothing. As an infestation grows, the bugs can travel throughout a building through cracks in the walls, electrical outlets, or wires and pipes.
You don’t need to see the actual bugs to identify their presence. You may first notice spotting on mattresses, bedding, or clothing. This spotting is the result of blood stains that bed bugs leave behind when they are feeding.
What Damage Do Bed Bugs Cause?
Much like mosquitoes, bedbugs feed exclusively on blood from humans and other warm-blooded animals. They are nocturnal insects that feed on exposed skin while the host is asleep, with peak feeding activity occurring just before dawn.
The good news is that bed bugs are not known to carry or transmit diseases. They can, however, still pose risks of discomfort, sleeplessness, and anxiety to senior residents in assisted living communities.
What Are The Signs of A Bed Bug Infestation?
The first sign of a bed bug infestation that your caregivers may notice is “bites” on their residents or residents complaining of bites. Victims of bed bug bites may present red raised bumps that are extremely itchy. They are suffering from an allergic reaction to the salivary gland injection made when a bug feeds.
But here is the tricky part, not everyone is allergic to bed bug bites. This means that bed bugs could be present and individuals may have been bitten but they do not react with any bumps. Research shows that only 30 percent of people who live in an area affected by bed bugs experience any reaction to their bites. In a population of individuals who are 65 and older, 42 percent did not show a reaction to the bites. Seniors often have a reduced sensitivity due to medications they take, including corticosteroids which can suppress their response to allergens.
This spectrum of sensitivity makes it possible for an infestation to spread before any warning signs appear.
Prevent Bed Bug Infestations
Here are the steps your community should take to prevent bed bug infestations if any warning signs are present among your residents.
1. Suspected/Confirmed Infestation
If bed bugs are suspected or confirmed in a resident’s living area:
- Notify management
- Inspect the room/apartment
- If bed bugs are present, notify the Executive Director and Director of Housekeeping
2. Confirmed Infestation Protocol
To prevent the further spread of bed bugs throughout your community:
- Contact a professional exterminator
- Inspect adjacent living and common areas
- Safely and properly clean the affected area to physically remove bugs:
- Vacuum the mattress, carpets, and upholstered furniture
- Dispose of sweeper bag in outside trash
- Wipe down all non-upholstered furniture
- Clean all bedding in hot water and hot dryer
- Wash the resident’s clothing
- Temporarily move the resident to another room/apartment
- DO NOT TAKE ANY BELONGINGS FROM THE INFECTED AREA TO THE NEW LOCATION.
- Place two changes of clothing in a plastic bag, taking them directly to the laundry room and launder them on the hottest settings, then return them to the resident in their temporary living area.
- Conduct follow-up inspections
- Perform routine inspection and discourage clutter
- Discretely examine furniture new residents might bring into the facility
Are you interested in educating your team further on bed bugs and how to prevent bed bug infestation in your assisted living community? Senior Living U offers a monthly in-service program focused on bed bug control.