How to help a far away senior citizen mother?(8 posts)
My 74 year old mother has been battling bed bugs in her home for 4 months now and the problem only seems to be getting worse. She has tried heat treatment twice and it failed both times. She has had her home sprayed several times but she is still getting bitten and has even recently brought the bugs to both of my sisters' homes. The house is too big for her to handle on her own and we all have small babies so we cannot go stay with her and help her without exposing our babies to bites and pesticides.
What do we do?
Is there a service in Boston that will do more than just spray and leave? She needs more help than the average customer. Should we hire a company to pack up her things and put them in storage? Do companies like that even exist? Is that even the right move at this point?
When you said she had "heat treatment" what do you mean?
Usually this refers to structural heating of the entire home, which, done properly by an experienced pro, should kill bed bugs in one shot.
A few people seem to use "heat treatment" to refer to steaming or other methods which are not one-shot treatments.
Before making any suggestions, it would be helpful to know what was done.
One more question: is your mother in a free-standing house, or an attached house/townhouse/condo? If one of the latter situations, has she checked whether neighbors have the same problem?
She is in a free standing home. She has an apartment on the 3rd floor and has involved her tenants in the treatment. She had a structural heating of the entire home. Twice. By a reputable company and it failed both times. She has had bed bug sniffing dogs in to confirm this. I cannot even begin to speculate on why it did not work.
A free-standing singe-family home is a slightly different treatment case than the duplex or three-unit homes that are common in the Boston area with multiple families on multiple floors.
There are several possible reasons that the treatment failed.
First, there is always the possibility that a treatment failed because treatments do sometimes fail. The idea that structural heat treatment from a reputable company would fail twice, though--is a bit of a stretch. While I would not rule out treatment failure, it doesn't seem the likeliest cause to me.
Second, there is the problem with reinfestation. Do you have any idea where the bed bugs came from in the first place? For some of us, the infestation is easily trackable to a specific incident; I was staying at a hotel and saw what I thought was a tick in the bed. Only later did I put two and two together and figure out that it was a bed bug and that that was likely where I picked my infestation up. If your mother, or one of her tenants, is being repeatedly exposed to bed bugs at work, on public transit, or in some other place they frequent (school, child care, etc.), then heat treatment alone may not be the best option. While heat treatment is very effective when done properly, unlike chemical or mechanical (DE and other dust) treatments, it does not have any effect that prevents the reintroduction of bugs or kills off any bugs that are introduced. Heat is very effective at killing bugs and eggs in a home at the time of treatment, but if the bugs are being reintroduced, there's no residual effect from heat.
In addition, it's also important to determine whether everyone in the structure being treated is 100% bug and egg free post treatment. If anyone in the building wasn't prepping correctly, that can also affect the effectiveness of the treatment.
Again, I suspect a lot of what I said is going to sound like accusations; I want to be clear that that's not my intention. Unfortunately, with bed bugs, detective work is often a part of the process. In your mother's case, trying to find out where the infestation came from (or is repeatedly coming from) may be an important part of the equation.
Are the other tenants also being treated? Are their units also being cleared by dogs or inspection by a professional post-treatment?
Do you have a list from the PCO of exactly what was applied? And when? In what sequence did the heat and chemical treatments happen?
One other option would be getting a hotel room near your mom's place to help her out if you don't think she can do the prep work on her own. But before you cross that bridge, I would consider trying to rule out possible sources of reinfestation (other units, places she frequents) first.
Hang in there.
I think buggyinsocal has hit all the right points.
Structural heat treatment failing twice would seem to be less likely than re-exposure (a local source as David Cain would put it).
How long after treatment did the dog inspection occur?
I would note that some heat treatment providers have noted that their particular technology (can't remember which one) may leave some live bugs who die in the days following. I was quite surprised when I heard that. (This doesn't sound like what you're talking about, but perhaps it is.)
If re-exposure is the issue, it could come down to someone in the building visiting someone with bed bugs, or going to work in an infested location, or going to school/day care in one, or having an infested car (which I understand is rare but not unheard of). One would guess that this source would have to be a pretty bad case, since it seems it's not that easy to pick up hitchhikers.
One other idea: it sounds like your mother is experiencing a skin reaction and that this is the source of the idea that she still has bed bugs.
Is there other evidence?
And for that matter, can you tell us more about the dog inspection? Was it one dog or more? Did this happen after each failed heat treatment or just one? How long after treatment? Were positive dog alerts followed by a visual confirmation?
(We recommend that people hire teams where the handler attempts to visually verify dog alerts by finding bed bugs, or cast skins, feces, etc., because false positives are not unheard of.)
Without visual evidence it is possible that your mother is reacting to something else. Some people seem to have skin reactions to bed bugs which linger for a time after the bites stop.
Other people have had reactions to other bugs -- fleas or even allergic reactions to carpet beetle hairs. Other skin issues are possible also. Even pesticides can lead to skin reactions.
We're making a lot of assumptions as to why a heat treatment may have failed or not. There are a variety of reasons a heat treatment may fail to produce 100% mortality. And, with the limited information we've been provided, it is possible that there are conditions in place that may have served to compromise the success of the treatment in question.
Rather than speculate, it may be best to seek additional information from toofaraway such that we can provide suitable comment/suggestions/advice.
There are some questions of concern:
> Your mom's home is a free standing home but you mention tennants. Is she the owner/landlord?
> How is this home constructed? Is it wood frame? Masonry walls? Regular sheetrock or plaster walls? When was it originally constructed?
> How many floors to this home? Is there a basement? How many rooms? Number of bedrooms?
> How many people live there?
Please advise, thanks, paul b.
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