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Bed Bug Infestation and the Elderly: 5 Key Things to Know

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

If you’ve been watching the news or active on social media, then you’ve likely heard that bed bug infestations are on the rise.

Obviously, this isn’t good news for anyone. A bed bug infestation can be difficult and expensive to handle as well as distressing and uncomfortable. But did you know that elderly people can experience some extra challenges when it comes to dealing with bed bugs?

In this article, we’ll share five key pieces of information that you might not already know when it comes to how a bed bug infestation affects the elderly, along with some tips on providing bed bugs assistance for elderly people.

1. Elderly people are at risk of not noticing signs of bed bug infestation

The first thing to know about the elderly and bed bugs is that older people are at risk of not noticing that they have an infestation.

Since bed bugs are good at hiding in tiny crevices before coming out at night to bite, visible bugs might not be the first signs of bed bug infestation. Other signs like the little red and brown spots that a bedbug infestation can leave on sheets can be the first thing that alerts someone to the problem.

But since elderly people are generally more likely to have weaker eyesight, they may miss these little marks on the sheets. In fact, since an adult bed bug is only half a centimetre long, older people who can’t see well might not notice the bed bugs themselves either.

This can be a huge problem. When a person isn’t aware of their infestation, they can’t take steps to address it, and a small infestation can grow into a larger one. Wouldn’t an older person notice a bed bug infestation because of itchy bites, even if they can’t see any signs of the bed bugs?

Well, not necessarily – which brings us to our next point…

2. Elderly people are less likely to feel bites from bed bugs

Experts aren’t entirely certain why, but it seems that older people’s skin is less likely to experience symptoms of bed bug bites such as itching, red or purplish colouration and raised bumps. In fact, about a third of all people don’t have reactions to bed bug bites, and that proportion is greater in the elderly.

Without any physical signs of being bitten and without being able to see signs of bed bug infestation in the form of bugs or spots, an older person can easily be unaware of their home’s infestation. That means that for the elderly, help with bed bugs starts with making sure bed bug infestations don’t go unnoticed.

3. Older people’s homes can be an especially welcoming habitat for bed bugs

Bedbugs can thrive in any communal living place where a lot of people sleep and where many people go in and out. Each time a person enters this space from outside, that’s a new opportunity for bed bugs to come in too.

If you’re thinking that this description could apply to a care home, you’d be right. And once bedbugs enter a nursing home or other communal living facility, they’re difficult to eradicate, since eradication requires every senior’s room and belongings to be moved and cleaned – a huge undertaking.

There are also risks when it comes to the homes of older people who live independently. Whereas a young person living in their own home for the first time might have a rather sparse living space, older people’s homes typically contain a lifetime’s worth of mementos and possessions. But the more objects are in a home, the more opportunities there are for bedbugs to hide in crevices.

4. Bedbugs can be more difficult to eradicate in elderly people’s homes

When it comes to infestations in the homes of the elderly, help with bed bugs should be led by professionals. In fact, for anyone experiencing a bed bug infestation, UK experts including the NHS advise that they should seek help from their council or a pest control service.

However, while professional pest control services can provide some bed bugs assistance for elderly people, there are still preparations that residents must do ahead of the pest treatment. Furniture will likely need to be moved, beds stripped, drawers emptied, fabrics washed, and so on.

As you might imagine, this is never a simple task. For the elderly, it may be more difficult just because it’s strenuous. For older people who can’t lift heavy objects, have weaker balance or are easily worn out, this work may be extremely difficult.

What’s more, older people can be more vulnerable to pesticides that may be used to treat for bed bugs. Fortunately, heat treatments, which are increasingly being used to combat bed bugs, can mean that pesticides aren’t such a problem. However, heat treatments will often still require all those other laborious preparation steps that will often be tiring, hard or impossible for seniors to do. For example, items that could be damaged by high temperatures will need to be removed and individually cleaned.

5. Handling bedbugs can be difficult in the homes of older people with dementia

Typically, sticking to a routine is helpful for older people with dementia, while changes can be distressing and confusing to them.

Unfortunately, that means the process of cleaning and preparing a home for pest treatment might be especially upsetting for older people with dementia. They may not understand what’s happening, why they can’t do what they want to do or why furniture has been moved.

The importance of early detection

Because of these additional challenges that older people might face when their home has bedbugs, it’s even more essential to try to prevent an infestation and to detect it early if it happens.

Whether you’re an older person or a family member or carer for an older relative, one key tip for successful bed bugs assistance for elderly people is to stay in touch and communicate as much as possible:

  • If possible, a carer or family member with good eyesight might want to stop by and do a bedbug check in an older person’s home if there have been infestations in the area or among friends.
  • If a family member who’s visited an older person’s home recently finds that they have bedbugs, it’s essential for them to let others know so that a check can be done.
  • And if bedbugs are found in an older person’s home, the elderly person should know it’s all right to contact friends and family right away for help with combating them, including getting in touch with a pest control service.

Keep in touch with loved ones with SureSafe

A recent survey showed that 96% of over-75s prefer to remain living independently in their own home. Often, just a little support – in the form of devices, help from family, professional care, or all of these options – can make a huge difference in allowing older people to remain in their homes for as long as possible. And for the elderly, help with bed bugs at an early stage can prevent a small infestation from spreading and becoming a far larger problem.

Whether an older person needs to arrange a quick bedbug check, ask for assistance after bedbugs are discovered, or call for help in an emergency, family and friends alarms can allow them to do this simply and easily. In case of a crisis, a one-touch personal alarm lets an older person call for assistance right away with just the touch of a button. And when it comes to staying in touch with family on a regular basis, a smart watch with a family and friends app is perfect both for coordinating usual care and for sounding the alarm in case of a fall or other accident.

If you’re an older person or elderly person’s carer worried about bed bug infestation, personal safety alarm experts SureSafe are here to help with alarms that can help keep your family and friends connected. To chat further with our team about what personal alarms can do for you, give us a ring at 0800 112 3201, try our live chat, or request a call back.

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