Five Action Steps to Prevent Bed Bug Infestations in Assisted Living and Nursing Home Facilities

Assisted living and nursing home facilities often pose a difficult scenario in the control and prevention of bed bugs. An outbreak can leave a permanent scar on the home’s reputation. No person wants their loved ones, who may already be sick and ailing, to be subjected to the indignity and mental anguish of bed bug bites.

With a consistent staff and management teams, nursing homes have more control over who works in their facilities, offering them somewhat of an advantage over other transient facilities. However, they also suffer from a host of outsiders coming and going, increasing the likelihood that bed bugs can be introduced to the facility. Medical Staff from other facilities, social workers, housekeeping staff, patients admitted from an array of different ‘feeder hospitals’, emergency medical technicians, and visiting family and friends all offer an entrance way to bed bugs. Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers and can hide in the belongings of any new tenant or visitor. Nursing homes offer hundreds of available hosts for the bugs to feed upon.  A perfect marriage of sorts!

The reduced mobility of many of the residents in these facilities offers an additional advantage leading to the establishment of a bed bug infestation. In addition, residents may already display a variety of skin ailments, including skin rashes, discolorations, abrasions and ulcers, all which make bed bug bites harder to distinguish. As many as 30% of the residents may not show any reaction to bed bug bites often due to compromised immune system issues. Bedding, wheelchairs, and walkers are readily available harborage areas for bed bugs that are typically nocturnal and prefer to seek harbor in close proximity to their host.

The discovery of a bed bug infestation will likely result in the movement of residents to other areas while rooms/items are treated.  Relocation and treatment are highly costly to the facility and places residents at heightened risk because of stress and changes to their daily routines.  The logistical inconvenience, damage to the home’s reputation and high cost of bed bug control make prevention and early intervention critical components of a preventive program.

Any facility can fall victim to a bed bug infestation. According to a survey of 4,500 Pest Management Professionals conducted in 2010, 46% of them reported bed bug infestations in nursing homes, up from 25% from the year before.

The following steps should be put into practice as a proactive means to control bed bug infestations in nursing homes and assisted living facilities:

1. The management staff should work along with a Professional Pest Management firm that is experienced at bed bug control in similar settings. The firm should assist management in understanding how bed bug infestations may be introduced to the facility and work with them to take steps to prevent the entrance of bed bugs.

2. Facility staff (including those involved in the laundering of bedding and resident’s clothing), nurses and nurse’s assistants should be trained to recognize signs of bed bugs.  They should be vigilant in their daily inspections of patients for apparent bites, telltale signs of bed bug activity (e.g., cast skins, fecal droppings, blood splatters on linens) including key patient-related areas and medical equipment.

3. Passive or active bed bug monitoring devices should be installed in all rooms, common areas, and even the employee locker areas; these must be inspected frequently. 

4. If the facility has detected bed bugs or has experienced an infestation in the past (defined as within the past year), thorough inspections in the target and surrounding areas should be conducted regularly including: headboards, bedding, carpet edges, mattresses and box springs and other areas where bed bugs notoriously hide.  

5. Facilities should consider covering mattresses, box springs or both with a bedding liner known to kill bed bugs. Covering mattresses and/or box springs with a liner that kills bed bugs is a cost-efficient and highly effective tool that can help to proactively prevent an infestation before it is able to spread throughout a facility. The expense of covering beds is often far less than paying for treatment of a facility after a bed bug outbreak occurs.

As you can see, it is critical to prevent or identify bed bug infestations early. Taking proactive steps is critical to keeping a nursing home or assisted living facility bed bug-free.

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