Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in people over the age of 65, and not only are they uncomfortable, but UTIs in seniors can further cause kidney infections, kidney failure and bloodstream infections (sepsis). Seniors typically have compromised immune systems, which makes them more vulnerable to infections in general. A senior’s pelvic floor and bladder muscles also tend to get weaker as they age, leading to incomplete bladder emptying, urine flow backup and incontinence. When you combine these factors, elderly persons are more susceptible to UTIs then younger people.
Other UTI risk factors include diabetes, urinary catheter use, kidney stones, incontinence, bladder surgery, and immobility. When a senior is receiving in-home care they sometimes can’t express that they are experiencing UTI symptoms, and unfortunately some of those can be misread as cognitive impairment by a caregiver. As a result, while serving as a caregiver for a loved one who’s still aging in place it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of a UTI.
Telltale Signs of UTIs in Seniors
When a senior’s immune system is still relatively healthy, here are some of the telltale signs of a UTI:
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Urine that looks cloudy, dark or bloody
- Sensations of pressure in the lower pelvic region
- Low-grade fever that persists
- Strong or bad-smelling urine
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Pelvic pain in the center of the pelvis (women)
- Night sweats or chills
If you are looking after an aging loved one who’s not communicating well, keep in mind that when their immune system is compromised a UTI oftentimes doesn’t present with the symptoms listed above. In those situations, you’ll need to look for additional signs.
Secondary Signs that a Senior has a UTI
In cases where a senior has a compromised immune system due to aging, an illness, or medications they’re taking, it’s much more difficult to determine if they have a UTI because their body won’t mount a normal immune response. That’s when you’ll need to dig a little deeper and look for some of the secondary signs, which unfortunately can mimic those of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here are some of those additional UTI indicators:
- Poor motor skills or loss of coordination
- Confusion or acting delirious
- Other abnormal behaviors
- Dizziness or falling down
Anytime you suspect that the senior you’re caring for has a UTI, it’s best to have them checked out by a physician who can diagnose and treat the problem. Don’t delay doing so because of the risk for serious kidney damage and sepsis.
Ways for Seniors to Lower Their UTI Risk
There are several ways to help prevent UTIs in seniors. Those include:
- Drinking lots of fluids. This means 2 to 4 quarts of water daily unless prohibited by a doctor’s order.
- Limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Both can irritate a senior’s bladder.
- Using cranberry juice or tablets. Cranberries help ward off UTIs but avoid these if your loved one has a history of kidney stones.
- Wearing cotton underwear. Cotton material breathes well and the underwear should be changed at least once per day.
- Proper incontinence care. If a senior is incontinent, front-to-back wiping and washing is encouraged, along with frequent underwear changes. The genital area should also be kept clean at all times. Adult briefs are commonly used to prevent embarrassing moments, but doing so also increases the UTI risk.
When you’re providing care for an aging at-home loved one that has incontinence and memory loss, it’s also a good idea to set timers or employ other reminders for them to use the bathroom on a regular basis.
Our Caregivers Understand UTI Symptoms
As we’ve seen, seniors are vulnerable to UTIs for many reasons. If you are serving as a caregiver, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of UTIs in seniors, UTI prevention, and proper incontinence care. When you need a break or live too far away, one of the experienced caregivers from First in Care can step in and provide your loved one with the care they deserve. Our home care aids are trained to identify the causes and symptoms of UTIs in seniors, and can assist your loved one with their fluid intake, bathing, toileting, personal hygiene and dressing needs.
First in Care also provides reliable in-home care for meals, transportation, light housework and companionship; all delivered in an affordable and flexible package to put your mind at-ease. For more information on the family-trusted senior home care services that First in Care offers in the Bradenton and Manatee County, FL area, visit: www.firstincare.com now.