If you suspect or you are informed that a consumers home is experiencing a bed bug infestation, you need to protect yourself and the consumer by following the protocols for safety and reporting as listed here:
- Protect your belongings. Once you’re inside your consumer’s home, instead of putting your purse or bag on the floor or on the bed, use a solid surface, a solid counter top is best . Some caregivers opt to put their bags in the tub. Why this works: Bed bugs do not climb smooth surfaces very well.
- Check between the sheets. Bed bugs don’t actually live in mattresses or box springs. That’s where they come to feed on a blood meal. So you’re looking for signs that they have been there. Before you begin care, take a moment to untuck the sheets and look for any live bed bugs and some telltale bed bug signs:
- Spotting: Dark spots slightly larger than the period at the end of this sentence are bed bug feces. They’re usually found in clusters.
- Reddish stains: These are caused by crushed bed bugs.
- Egg shells: Look for very small white eggshells, about 1 millimeter in size.
- Nymph skins: These look like “empty” bugs and are shed as the bugs grow.
- Check the headboard. “Hotels change the sheets often,” points out Stavropoulos. The most reliable place to look is the headboard, where bed bugs might run and hide. You can also take a flashlight and look under the bed at the bottom of the box spring.
- Check cracks and seams. Check not just in the mattress but in the entire room. If the room is widely infested, bed bugs might hide in the seams of furnishings as well as in mattresses and box springs. Also look in cracks on bed frames, drawer joints, and electrical outlets.
If you find these signs be sure to report it to your coordinator who will then report the findings to the family contact and the Case Manager responsible for the consumer’s care.
Because there’s a chance that you’ll inadvertently bring bed bugs home with you. As a precaution follow these steps once you get home:
- Unpack in your bag and remove clothing in the bathroom, wash all your clothing immediately. (And if that’s not possible, store the clothes in a sealed bag away from your bedroom until you can launder them.) You must wash items at a high heat — 113 degrees F — for an hour to kill bed bugs; detergent alone won’t do the job. Once clothes are clean, dry in an additional drying cycle for about 30 minutes to achieve the heat needed to kill the bugs.
- Clean your purse/ bag. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scour the inside surface and then vacuum it. If time allows, store it in a sealed plastic bag for a few months to kill any bed bugs — without a warm-blooded food source, they will eventually die.
Bed bugs have become an unpleasant reality in recent years, but they shouldn’t keep you you’re your work as a caregiver. If you play detective and take simple precautions, you shouldn’t have to cross their path.