Know the Risks and What You Can Do to Spot the Symptoms of a UTI in Your Elderly Loved One
While UTIs can cause mild problems for young adults, they can have more severe consequences in seniors. UTIs are the most common type of bacterial infection in older adults over age 65—particularly for those living in nursing homes. If left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure or sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection in the blood.
If you’re caring for an older adult who’s at risk for a UTI, here’s what you should know to make sure they are protected.
Alliance Senior Care Home Care services offer a wide range of services providing healthcare, daily living assistance, transportation to and from Doctor’s appointments and tailored care services for additional circumstances.
Why Do Seniors Get More UTIs than Younger People?
Older adults are more vulnerable to UTIs, because as we age, we tend to have weaker muscles in our bladder and pelvic floor that can cause urine retention in the bladder or incontinence. Whenever urine stays in the urinary tract, there’s a potential for bacteria to grow, such as Escherichia coli, or E. coli, to multiply and cause an infection.
Other factors that increase the risk of UTIs in seniors are a weakened immune system, the use of catheters to empty the bladder, diabetes and kidney problems.
Older women have UTIs more often than older men because of the female anatomy and lower estrogen levels as women age. Women produce lower amounts of estrogen after menopause, which can create an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina, which in turn can lead to infection.
What Are the Common Symptoms of a UTI?
Sometimes it may be hard to figure out if a loved one has a UTI or not. They may not have the classic symptoms. This is often because urinary problems, such as incontinence, may have similar symptoms related to another issue, making it more difficult to recognize.
The classic, or common, symptoms of a UTI can include:
- Burning while urinating
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- A feeling the bladder is not completely empty
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
More severe symptoms of a complicated UTI can include:
- Worsening abdominal pain
- Fatigue or malaise
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid Change in their cognitive abilities
- Unexplained confusion
- Generalized weakness and losing their balance and/or ability to walk
Why are Dementia Patients at Greater Risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)?
In older age, symptoms of UTIs may not be so evident, especially for those who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Rather than showing pain symptoms, they may start to act more erratically.
Often dementia patients can’t tell us they have UTI symptoms. If left untreated their symptoms can escalate quickly, causing confusion and a state of delirium or other forms of erratic behavior. It’s important to watch for worsening symptoms of confusion and disorientation.
With our Integrated Care Services, we keep appraised of any changes in your elderly loved one and can act quickly to address any changes in health.
If you suspect a loved one has a UTI, it’s best to have them checked by their doctor, so the doctor can rule out other possible infections or begin treatment for a UTI.
What are Asymptomatic UTIs?
An asymptomatic UTI is when bacteria are present in your urinary tract, but you don’t have any symptoms. Typically, these types of UTIs are found in routine testing, like yearly exams, and generally do not require treatment unless you are pregnant, post renal transplant or planning to have a urological procedure.
How are UTIs Treated in Older Adults?
If a loved one is diagnosed with a UTI, their doctor will begin them on a narrow-spectrum antibiotic. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics like amoxicillin are less likely to lead to antibiotic resistance and problematic side effects. For more advanced cases, such as those that lead to sepsis and kidney infections, your loved may have to be admitted into the hospital and receive IV antibiotics.
What Can Be Done Do to Prevent UTIs?
Antibiotics can help treat UTIs, but there are some good habits and practices you can do to help to prevent them altogether:
- Drink plenty of water and fluids (typically 2 to 3 liters per day).
- Postmenopausal women can try using vaginal estrogen creams, which can help support the presence of good bacteria.
- Empty the bladder frequently and as soon as there is a need.
- Wipe front to back.
- Wear loose, breathable clothes.
- If adult diapers are worn, make sure they are changed frequently.
- Drinking cranberry juice and take a supplement called D-mannose, which has been shown to reduce symptoms and prevent infection.
Consult Your Doctor
Although UTIs are common, they can have life-threatening repercussions for older adults if left untreated. If you believe a loved one has a UTI or is experiencing repeated UTIs, consult their doctor right away.
Alliance Senior Care understands the UTI’s are one of the most common reasons for hospitalization as well as being preventable. Our Integrated Wellness Program focus on including proper hydration and nutrition to prevent UTI’s in our clients. Call for a free assessment to learn how we may be able to help your loved one, 248-274-2170.