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Caregiver Insights: Senior In Home Care

UTI: Urinary TRACT infections in the elderly

By Michael Connors LVN on May 22, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Sarah’s mom was getting really cranky lately. She would go back and forth from being argumentative to being depressed, fatigued, and anxious. She would lash out at Sarah one minute, and in the next minuteUTI_Urinary_Tract_Infection_web.jpg breakdown crying and asking for help. “I just don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t handle things anymore, I just can’t think straight.”

Her caregiver had taken mom had been to the doctor a few weeks before and been checked out for a UTI, but the test came back negative. But another test done after all other obvious symptoms were ruled out confirmed that all these symptoms were indeed caused by a Urinary Tract Infection.

 What are UTI Infections:

A Urinary Tract Infection occurs when germs or bacteria enter a person’s bladder and kidneys via their urethra. Women typically have 4xs the occurrence of these infections vs Males according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The prime reason for this higher rate is attributed to women having a shorter Urethra, which in turn makes it much easier for germs and bacteria to enter the body.

A person with a weakened immune system or suffering from compounding health conditions i.e.- Diabetes or Kidney problems, are at a much higher risk  as well. Additionally, women that are post-menopausal face an increased risk  due to a lack of estrogen, which helps prevent the growth of bacteria and germs in the woman’s urethra.

Symptoms:

  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Bloody Urine
  • Strong/foul smelling urine odor
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis
  • Low grade fever
  • Night sweats, shaking or chills

 How UTI’s affect elderly differently than younger persons:

Due to immune system changes as we age the body may respond differently to infections. Typically, in younger persons these infections are indicated by physical signs and symptoms whereas a senior may show in addition to common signs the following as well:

  •  Increased signs of confusion and or agitation
  • Withdrawal, lack of energy
  • Marked decrease in appetite and consumption of fluids
  • Sudden falls
  • New incontinent episodes.

 For seniors with dementia these changes may be taken as normal for their condition or as typical signs of advanced aging. The danger lies in that doing so allows the actual infection to remain unrecognized and untreated for too long.

With this delay the infection can spread to the bloodstream and threaten the affected person’s life. The Alzheimer’s society explains that these infections can cause behavior changes for a person with Alzheimer’s.

These changes are catorgized as Delirium, which can develop in as little as 24-48 hours after initial infection. Symptoms of Delirium range from agitation/restlessness to hallucinations/delusions. UTI’s can also quicken the development of dementia.

Treatment:

Your Medical doctor or healthcare professional typically diagnose a Urinary Tract Infection through the following methods.

  • Urine test to screen for infection
  • Ultrasound examination
  • X-rays
  • Cat scan
  • As needed a specialist may perform additional tests to determine the underlying cause of infection

 Antibiotics are the standard course of treatment for Urinsary Tract Infections, with these it is of chief importance that the ordered medications be taken exactly as ordered for the period of time ordered as well. Failure to do so increase the risk for possible re-infection or the development of a resistance to the current treatment regimen.  

Home Remedies:

  • Promote consumption of adequate fluids daily (6-8 glasses of H20 per day minimum unless restricted)
  • Ensure proper hygiene both in and out of the bathroom.
  • For Seniors in particular- encourage them to use the bathroom several times per day as tolerated.

 For seniors the combination of decrease in function and decline in ability to perform their own care can place them at a much higher risk. The recognition of behavior changes, sudden falls, confusion and or onset of abnormal incontinence may all signal a problem of this kind. If you notice these signs, symptoms or changes in yourself or your loved ones please contact your medical provider for guidance or a checkup.

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References:

Guide to Urinary Tract Infections: WebMD

Mayo Clinic: Urinary Tract Infections

Topics: Living with Aging Parents, Health/Medical