Urinary tract infections (UTIs) aren’t merely an inconvenience for the average elderly adult because they can cause serious health problems. An untreated UTI can damage the kidneys and even lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream. Although UTIs are more common in older women, elderly men can also get them. For those currently looking after aging in place seniors, knowing how to detect the signs of a UTI early on could be a game-changer for ensuring their continued health and wellbeing.
UTI Risk Factors in Seniors
As most people age their body’s ability to fight off bacterial infections like a UTI diminishes. In addition to a weakened immune system here are some other common UTI risk factors in the elderly:
- Urinary tract blockages (kidney stones, enlarged prostate, etc.)
- Recently having a urinary catheter
- Incontinence and poor hygiene
- Going through menopause
- Being sexually active
How Does a UTI Start?
A UTI typically occurs when harmful bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and then start to multiply in the bladder. As the bacterial infection takes hold it can then spread into other parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder (cystitis), kidneys (acute pyelonephritis), ureters and urethra (urethritis).
UTI Symptoms in Seniors
In seniors with a relatively healthy immune system these are some of the classic UTI warning signs:
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Night sweats or chills
- Urine that looks cloudy, dark, or bloody
- Low-grade fever that persists
- Sensations of pressure in the lower pelvic region
- Pain in the center of the pelvis (women)
If your loved one has trouble communicating how they’re feeling, and/or their immune system is compromised, a UTI will be even more difficult to detect.
In those situations, look for these secondary signs:
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Acting confused or disoriented
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed
- Other abnormal behaviors
Dementia, Alzheimer’s, certain other health conditions, and some medications can mimic the symptoms of a UTI- which further complicates the process.
If a UTI Is Suspected
When you suspect that your loved one has a UTI don’t take chances. Instead, get them to the doctor so that they can order lab work that will detect the presence of harmful bacteria in the urine.
If the test results confirm a UTI the doctor will usually order a course of antibiotics and recommend pain medication. Someone with a UTI should also drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep their urinary system flushed out.
UTI-Prevention Tips for Seniors
According to WebMD, 10% of all older males will get a UTI at some point, while for elderly women the odds are one-in-two. And once a senior has had a UTI they are more likely to get a second infection.
That makes UTI-prevention a priority for those aged 65+, starting with these tips:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking plenty of liquids like water and cranberry juice helps dilute urine and promote more frequent urination- which then flushes potentially harmful bacteria from the urinary tract. However, caffeine and alcohol intake should be limited.
- Keep the genital area clean. This is notably important for someone with incontinence.
- Wipe correctly. After urinating or a bowel movement a woman should always wipe her pelvic region from front to back.
- Empty the bladder frequently. Encourage your loved one to urinate every two to three hours- well before their bladder feels full- to keep the urinary tract flushed.
- Wear cotton underwear. Cotton material breathes well which helps lower the infection rate, and underwear should also be changed out at least once a day.
An Extended Family in Your Loved One’s Home
Helping an aging loved one stay UTI-free can be hard when you’re busy or live far away. When you need a hand, contact us. As a fully licensed home care agency our well-trained caregivers understand the importance of UTI prevention and detection. While serving as an extended family in your senior’s home our experienced aides can also deliver reliable services like personal care, respite care, companionship care, dementia care, and even 24-hour care.
Our agency’s goal is to maintain your loved one’s quality of life so they can age in place with dignity and independence. To learn more about us now, or to schedule a FREE in-home assessment for a senior in our service area today, please call us or visit us online.