For younger adults, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is merely an inconvenience. But for those aged 65-and-above, a UTI can be dangerous. UTIs in elderly adults usually target women over men, and tend to also occur more frequently in those with limited mobility, diabetes, kidney stones, incontinence, or who have recently undergone bladder surgery. Many seniors with dementia can’t express that they have UTI symptoms, which makes it hard on caregivers. If you’re caring for an elderly adult who’s at risk for a UTI, the first step is knowing what to look for.
UTI Complications in the Elderly
Your urinary system helps remove waste products from your body and is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. When bacteria found in retained urine start multiplying, it can lead to an infection. Left untreated, a UTI can transition into a more serious kidney infection, resulting in permanent damage or kidney failure. UTIs can also cause sepsis, which is a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.
Why Do Seniors Get UTIs?
Older individuals are more vulnerable to UTIs for several reasons, starting with the fact their immune systems are compromised due to the aging process itself. Many elderly men and women also have weakened muscles in their bladder and pelvic floor that can cause urine retention and incontinence. Whenever urine stays in the urinary tract, there’s the potential for bacteria to multiply, cause an infection and then spread.
Common UTI Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of UTIs in elderly adults with a good immune system include:
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Low-grade fever that persists
- Urine that appears dark, cloudy or bloody
- Night sweats or chills
- Strong or bad-smelling urine
- Sensations of pressure in the lower pelvic region
- Pain in the center of the pelvic area (women)
When caring for a senior with a weakened immune system who also can’t communicate well, a UTI is sometimes hard to detect. In those situations, you’ll need to look for secondary signs.
Secondary Signs of UTIs in Elderly Adults
If your senior has a compromised immune system due to advanced age, an illness, or medication they’re on, determining whether-or-not they have a UTI can be hard because their body won’t mount an immune response. In addition, secondary signs of UTIs in elderly adults can mimic those of dementia and Alzheimer’s, which sometimes makes a diagnosis complicated.
With that in mind, here are some secondary signs for a senior with a UTI:
- Acting confused or delirious
- Dizziness or falling
- Poor motor skills or lack of coordination
- Other unusual behaviors
When you suspect that your loved one has a UTI, it’s best to have them checked by a doctor. Not promptly doing so could place them at risk for kidney damage and sepsis. Once diagnosed with a UTI, treatment with antibiotics usually clears it up.
UTI Prevention Tips for Seniors
Here are some ways to help ensure that your loved one stays UTI-free:
- Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol, as both can irritate the bladder.
- Drink 2 to 4 quarts of water per day unless prohibited by a doctor’s order.
- Wear breathable cotton underwear and change undergarments out at least once daily.
- Drink cranberry juice, or take cranberry tablets, unless there’s a history of kidney stones.
- Practice good incontinence care if that’s an issue. Wearing adult briefs will also increase the likelihood for a UTI.
If you are caring for an aging in place loved one who’s prone to get UTIs, and you can’t be there to assist them during the day, it may be wise to hire a licensed in-home caregiver.
In-Home Caregivers with UTI-Prevention Training
Caring for an elderly loved one who’s prone to getting UTIs can be challenging, especially when you manage your own household or live far away. When you need a hand, call Cranberry Home Care. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency, our carefully screened caregivers are highly trained on UTI symptoms and precautions. While serving as an extended family in your senior’s home, our aides will assist with their bathing, fluid intake, toileting and personal hygiene needs.
Our compassionate in-home senior services also include light housekeeping, medication reminders, food shopping assistance, meals, transportation and companionship. And, all our family trusted amenities can be individually tailored in an affordable package when and where you need them! To learn more now about Cranberry Home Care, or to schedule a FREE, in-home care consultation for a senior in Southeastern, MA, today, please visit: www.cranberryhomecare.com!