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Can you sue for bed bugs in a nursing home?

Bed bugs are a growing problem in the United States. Once on the edge of extinction in this country, they've come back with a new resistance to the insecticides currently in use.

Nursing homes are not exempt from infestations, and the lives of residents can quickly become miserable due to bed bug bites.

A proper response to the problem of bed bugs

Every nursing home should have a multi-level approach to preventing infestations. This includes:

  • Inspecting and washing all clothing and furniture that new patients bring
  • Prohibiting second-hand furniture donations
  • Regular inspection of bedding and areas where signs of bed bugs easily show up (either from their shed casings or blood drops)
  • Inspection of resident's skin for signs of bites or rashes.

If bed bugs are detected, the nursing home should immediately take steps to protect patients from any further bites:

  • A pest control specialist with expertise in bed bugs needs to be contacted immediately. This is not something to handle "quietly."
  • A patient in a room that clearly is infested needs to be moved to a clean room. Nothing should be moved with him or her until it has been inspected, decontaminated or otherwise declared "bed bug free."
  • Patients cannot be carelessly exposed to chemicals used to kill bed bugs. Many nursing home patients are in ill-health or have skin sensitivities, open wounds or breathing problems. Exposing them to hazardous toxins could cause rashes, infections, severe pain, burn-like reactions and problems breathing.

The patient needs immediate evaluation by a physician for any bites, raw spots caused by the patient's scratching or swollen areas. Treatment for injuries to the skin from the bed bugs should begin immediately, and the family should be notified about their relative's condition.

When infestations are signs of neglect

Not every bed bug infestation is a sign of nursing home neglect -- it can happen to anyone. You need to consider the nursing home's level of alertness to the problem.

Was your relative covered in bites that were clearly of different ages or were there only a few bites that were all new? Did the nursing home take care to protect your relative's overall health? Was the administration honest with you about the problem? Depending on your answers to those questions, you may want to investigate your legal options.

Source: National Pest Management Association, "Response to Bed Bugs In Medical Facilities," accessed Nov. 23, 2017

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