Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly

July 20, 2020
by TammyS | Health + Beauty

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Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly

Many of us, especially if we are female, have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) during our lifetime.  Some get them often and some have been lucky to experience them only rarely.  However, the signs and symptoms may vary from when we were younger to what we may experience as we age.

In our younger years, the classic UTI symptoms include:

  • Burning pain upon urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • “Urge” to urinate frequently
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Foul-smelling urine

However, these symptoms may not be present in older adults, due to differing factors – a possible suppressed or slower immune system being just one.  Also, seniors with inability to communicate due to health factors such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc., are at risk of a UTI worsening and spreading to the kidneys and possibly causing sepsis (blood infection).

In older adults, symptoms of a UTI may include:

  • Confusion and/or agitation
  • Urinary incontinence (lack of control over urination) or retention (inability to urinate)
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite and/or mobility

Seniors at increased risk of developing a UTI include those who:

  • Have Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Have an indwelling Foley catheter
  • Must perform medically necessary intermittent or “in-and-out” catheterization
  • Experience bladder and/or bowel incontinence (lack of control over either function)
  • Are not able to completely empty their bladder as the urine sits there longer and can develop bacteria, leading to an infection
  • Men who have an enlarged prostate or bladder and kidney stones

Some ways to help prevent UTIs:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Try to urinate when you feel the urge and do not hold your urine unnecessarily
  • Change incontinence pads or undergarments often and never, ever reuse them
  • Women should always wipe from front to back – never from back to front, as fecal material contains e-coli – one of the most common bacteria to cause UTIs.
  • Use unscented bath products and avoid feminine sprays and douches, which upset your healthy flora
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol

If you are a senior, or a caregiver for a senior, who is experiencing any of these symptoms, notify the physician or primary care provider immediately.  He or she will generally get a urine specimen and provide an antibiotic.

This context is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you have about a urinary condition and the advice offered here to prevent one, as they may not be appropriate for you.

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