Seniors are very susceptible to urinary tract infections (also known as a UTI), “UTI is one of the most commonly diagnosed infections in older adults. It is the most frequently diagnosed infection in long-term care residents, accounting for over a third of all nursing home-associated infections” (Rowe). A UTI is most basically defined as an infection of the urinary system that is caused when there is a buildup of bacteria from the urethra, bladder, or kidneys in the urine. UTI’s can be treated easily with antibiotics; however, if left untreated serious health problems can arise.
There are many common symptoms of UTIs which include any of the following: cloudy, dark, bloody, or foul-smelling urine, having an urgency to urinate, pain or burning during urination, feelings of pressure in the lower pelvis, low-grade fever, and night sweats, shaking, or chills. Although these are common symptoms, elderly individuals can have different responses to this type of infection because their immune systems are unable to recognize the infection. Sometimes, signs of a UTI are mistaken for early stages of dementia so it is important to be on the lookout for sudden behavioral or mental state changes – as these can sometimes be the only indicators of a UTI in seniors. These common symptoms include: confusion or delirium, agitation, hallucinations, unusual behavioral changes, poor motor skills or lack of coordination, dizziness, and falling (Sollitto).
As stated above, seniors are the most susceptible to UTIs – but why? The various conditions seniors have to face make them the most at risk. Diabetes, inability to empty the bladder completely, use of a urinary catheter, bowel or urinary incontinence, enlarged prostate, immobility, surgery near or around the bladder, and kidney stones are all conditions that have the potential to cause a UTI. With that said, there are ways to reduce the risk of contracting this infection such as changing briefs frequently, wiping and cleansing from front-to-back, keeping the genital area clean, usage of a restroom instead of an adult brief. There are also proactive measures seniors can take to additionally reduce the risk: continuously drink plenty of fluids, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, avoiding feminine hygiene products like a douche, wearing breathable cotton underwear that is changed at least once a day (McDermott).
A UTI can cause a wide variety of symptoms in seniors. It is important to recognize that confusion and behavioral changes may not always be the sign of dementia or related illnesses. In addition, if not treated promptly, can become a more serious threatening infection that attacks vital organs in the body such as the kidneys or bloodstream. If any of these symptoms arise seek medical attention immediately as a UTI can be easily treated with antibiotics if caught early on.
Sollitto, Marlo. “Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly.” UTIs in the Elderly: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments – AgingCare.com. AgingCare, LLC., 19 June 2017. Web. 12 July 2017. <https://www.agingcare.com/articles/urinary-tract-infections-elderly-146026.htm>.
Rowe, Theresa A., and Manisha Juthani-Mehta. “Urinary Tract Infection in Older Adults.” Aging Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2013. Web. 12 July 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3878051/>.
McDermott, Annette. “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Older Adults.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 04 Apr. 2016. Web. 12 July 2017. <http://www.healthline.com/health/uti-in-elderly#1>.