Pests can bug you even in your sleep. Case in point: bed bugs. For many senior living communities, an infestation of bed bugs would be a public relations nightmare (and a costly one), but it is a situation for which facility administrators and management should prepare and try to prevent.

Even with the best laid plans, anyone can encounter a bed bug introduction. Recently, we hosted a webinar and discussed the key ways to prepare, identify and remove bed bugs from a long-term care facilities. The bulk of the Q & A at the end focused on questions regarding bed bugs, so we’ve outlined tactics and strategies to lessen the threat of bed bugs.

So, how do you prepare your community and help prevent a potential bed bug infestation? Be in the know, be diligent and be willing to call the experts.

First, knowledge is key. Understanding how bed bugs arrive, how to identify them and how to respond is critical. Without invading the privacy of new residents, have staff members help new clients set up their living spaces, or have an administrator routinely check in with residents while quietly paying attention to cleanliness, upkeep and any potential giveaways of bed bugs.

Tell-tale signs of a bed bug introduction could include small black spots indicating bed bug feces or nymph bed bugs in places such as:

  • Linens or bedding
  • On or under furniture
  • Mattress seams
  • Bed frames and headboards
  • Electrical outlets
  • Flooring

Second, pay attention to detail. Bed bugs are tricky creatures that look similar to many other pests. So how do you spot them? A few similar bugs, like bat and swallow bugs, might be in the same family but only feed on birds or bats. Additionally carpet beetles look similar but feed and inhabit areas different from bed bugs. If you suspect you have bed bugs, you’ll need an expert to identify and confirm their presence. Keep in mind that self-treating is never a solution. Not only can this often be against insurance or other policies for commercial spaces, but between the potential health risks and the necessity of specific products, experts are the best way to prepare and combat an introduction of bed bugs.

Third, be ready to respond and handle introductions immediately with the support and guidance of an expert who has studied and understands bed bugs, the same way you and your staff understand your residents’ and facility’s needs. Allowing the experts to assess and determine how to best handle bed bugs means that the issue can be diminished quickly, the potential impact lessened, and you can offer your residents piece of mind by showing your dedication to their well-being.

In addition to facility administrators and staff members, residents are the best resources you have for catching a bed bug introduction early. Giving your residents information about what to be on the lookout for will help you and your entire facility be diligent and aware so that bed bugs feel unwelcome.

Here are a few things you can share with your residents about bed bugs:

  • Know what’s normal and what’s not. Everyone gets itchy sometimes, but helping residents pay attention to what a bed bug bite looks like can help identify problems faster. Bed bugs bite in groups and often leave small, red bites in linear patterns. 
  • Understand the markings. Teaching your residents the difference between a regular stain on a sheet or linen and a mark left by a bed bug is key. Share material that will help them identify bed bugs and where to find them so they can notice any subtle differences if bed bugs appear.
  • Temper chaos. Remind residents that bed bugs, although a nuisance, are not uncommon. Keeping residents in the know about bed bugs but also reassuring them that the pests are merely a nuisance and not a physical health risk is the best for your facility. Calm is the best response so that incidents with bed bugs can be handled quickly, easily and without too much frustration.

All environments are at risk. Bed bugs do not require the fanciest facilities and the best food. Pests such as these care about being undisturbed with the ability to feed without consequence. And they don’t relegate themselves to only residential living areas but also can thrive in common areas, on luggage, in bags and more.

A few tips if bed bugs are discovered at your facility:

  • Can’t touch this. When bed bugs are found, it is important to treat the area as a hot zone. Leave all of the items there — bedsheets, clothes, and even luggage — because bed bugs can travel on these items.
  • Call the experts. An inspection schedule or a call to your pest management team can help you avoid recurring, costly issues.
  • Raise the temperature. After the experts are called in, there are a couple methods of treatment they may enlist to combat the bed bugs. Nonresidual contact products certainly are an option the experts may consider. Your provider also may heat infested areas or items. Heating a specific area or room or recommending washing items on high heat — all supervised or completed by a pest control professional — could be the best and fastest way to combat these pests.  

Bed bugs may not be the biggest culprit of disease or health issues, but when it comes to your residents’ well-being, it’s imperative that you keep the effects of bed bugs at a minimum. Resolving current issues quickly and educating staff members and residents to help prevent bed bugs in the future will give you and your residents peace of mind at your community.

For more on bed bugs and other pests, you can view the webinar recording here.