- Recent studies have shown the persistence of disease-causing pathogens in bed bugs (Gondhalekar, 2019; Hamzaoui et al. 2019).
- Many victims of bed bugs report anxiety, depression, and insomnia, further draining a facility’s resources (Eveleth, 2014).
- Mistreatment of an infestation often spurs hefty fines from government agencies, damaging a facility’s brand indefinitely (Bryan, 2017; Cassidy et al. 2011).
As detailed last time, the bed bug epidemic only continues to surge with 59% of pest control professionals treating infestations in senior living (Pest World, 2018). While it is easy to say pest infestations are costly based upon their pricey removal fee, one cannot overlook the collateral damage, including risks associated with COVID-19, expenses to relocate residents, and harms to the facility’s reputation.
First, with over 14,000 facilities being affected by COVID-19, culminating in 57,000 staff and resident deaths, administrators are as reluctant as ever to allow exterminators to enter (New York Times, 2020). Moreover, with facilities opting for confined living, bed bugs, normally nocturnal to pry on residents while they sleep, now have access to their victims at all times (Fisher, 2020).
Furthermore, increased research has shown that bites may have more substantial impacts. Already being shown to cause respiratory issues, recent research has uncovered that pathogens of disease can persist in a bed bug’s stomach for up to three months (Gondhalekar, 2019; Hamzaoui et al. 2019). Given that other blood-sucking insects–such as mosquitos and ticks–can transmit devastating diseases, bed bugs could ultimately perpetuate facility-wide illnesses.
Besides endangering a facility’s residents and staff, infestations incur unpredictable, often unquantifiable costs that could leave impacts for years.
Secondly, pest infestations force affected residents to relocate rooms. Given facilities’ desire to isolate their residents, this increases the risk of contamination while being a great inconvenience to all parties involved. Especially for senior residents, some who may have specialized rooms given their health needs, transitioning to a different room incurs hidden monetary and psychological costs that are difficult to quantify.
Even after pests have been eradicated, senior residents still may experience a psychological toll from the original infestation. A survey of bed bug victims found that 29% of people suffered insomnia, 22% experienced emotional distress, and 20% reported anxiety (Eveleth, 2014). These psychological and emotional effects are the result of a substantial stressor on one’s life, specifically those who may be vulnerable, like the elderly population. With many bed bug victims needing support for these symptoms, senior living must address these needs to properly care for their residents.
Additionally, during infestations, staff in nursing homes are subject to significant amounts of responsibilities and risk, which is only heightened during COVID-19. Turnover in assisted-living facilities is among the highest amongst all industries, and with COVID-19 only contributing to the helplessness driving this unhappiness, facilities will struggle to retain their employees (Mukamel, 2009). Pest infestations only serve as an additional driver of this helplessness, as staff must contact outsiders to deal with these unpredictable invasions.
Finally, after the infestation has been supposedly eradicated and residents have been relocated, facilities still run the risk of their reputation being tarnished, including litigation from negligence claims. Sadly, many facilities struggle with negligence; one study found that only 5% of residents had not experienced it in some form (Nursing Home Abuse Center). Elder negligence includes bed bugs, with many residents feeling embarrassed or even threatened, as they fear being evicted from the facility (Aultman, 2013).
Ultimately, litigation from infestations proved to be quite costly. In 2017, an assisted living facility in Hollywood was fined $15,000 after severe bed bug infestation (Bryan, 2017). Furthermore, when a similar facility in Illinois ignored their bed bug infestations, the result was $186,000 in punitive damages for each victim (Cassidy et al. 2011). These fines may not even be the bulk of the damage, as a facility’s brand is permanently tarnished with their name being plastered across the internet for infestations.
Next time… We will be looking into the commercial pest solution. What exactly is being sprayed in your building?
Aultman, Julie. “Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite: The Cimicidae Debacle and the Denial of Healthcare and Social Justice.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16, no. 417–427 (2013).
Bryan, Susannah. “Assisted Living Facility Fined $15,000 after ‘plague’ of Bed Bugs.” Sun Sentinel, April 5, 2017. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-sb-alf-midtown-manor-hollywood-fined-20170404-story.html.
Cassidy, David, Christopher Elko, Robert Christie, Peter Di Eduardo, and Michael Glascott. “The Impact of Bed Bugs On Our Daily and Legal Lives.” FDCC Quarterly; Tampa 62, no. 1 (Fall 2011): 101–132.
Eveleth, Ross. “Bed-Bug Madness: The Psychological Toll of the Blood Suckers.” The Atlantic, October 16, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/bed-bug-madness-the-psychological-toll-of-the-blood-suckers/381447/.
Fisher, Marc. “Coronavirus Isolated Them in Their Rooms. Now, Old-Age Home Residents Reconnect by Spinning Elvis on the Radio.” Washington Post, June 1, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-elderly-radio-recliner/2020/06/01/c40c24c4-99ed-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html.
Gondhalekar, Ameya D. “2018 Highlights of Urban Entomology.” Journal of Medical Entomology 56, no. 5 (2019): 1188–93.
Hamzaoui, Basma El, Laroche Maureen, Yassina Bechah, Jean Michel Bérenger, and Philippe Parola. “Testing the Competence of Cimex Lectularius Bed Bugs for the Transmission of Borrelia Recurrentis, the Agent of Relapsing Fever.” The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 2019, 1407–12. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.18-0804.
Mukamel, Dana, William Spector, Rhona Limcangco, Ying Wang, and Vincent Mor. “The Costs of Turnover in Nursing Homes.” Med Care 47, no. 10 (2009): 1039–45.
New York Times. “More Than 40% of U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes,” July 15, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-nursing-homes.html.
Nursing Home Abuse Center. “Nursing Home Neglect,” n.d. https://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.com/nursing-home-neglect/.
Pest World. “Pest Control Professionals See Summer Spike in Bed Bug Calls,” 2018. https://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/press-releases/pest-control-professionals-see-summer-spike-in-bed-bug-calls/.
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