Getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) repeatedly seems to be common for many seniors. Some seem to overcome one only to get another infection quickly.
In most cases, with effective management they should be preventable.
Even older adults who are incontinent should be able to remain UTI-free, according to healthcare professionals.
What can family caregivers do to prevent UTIs from making their senior loved ones sick and at risk for falls or worse?
Prevalence and Causes of Recurrent UTIs
The number of older adults who are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection is staggering! Over 10% of women over 65 and 30% of women over 85 have reported a UTI in the past year.
Urinary tract infections, infections of the urinary system, are the most common infection in older adults. When the infection spreads to the kidneys, it can lead to sepsis and hospitalization for seniors.
Older adults with compromised immune responses, exposure to pathogens, and multiple chronic diseases have higher incidence of UTIs.
Taking greater than 6 medications can also increase the risk of developing a UTI especially certain drugs such as diuretics or sedatives.
Having a history of UTIs is a major factor in future development, as much as a four times greater risk than those without a history.
Urinary retention, high post-void residual, BPH diagnosis, and urinary stasis are also common causes for frequent UTI rates.
Urinary incontinence can lead to infections, but it is not inevitable. Bowel incontinence can lead to UTI if good pericare is not followed. Using good handwashing and cleaning techniques as well as other toileting procedures can help prevent frequent infections.
Unfortunately for seniors, when germs enter the body due to improper or infrequent handwashing or poor cleaning technique after urinating, frequent UTIs are the result.
Symptoms of a UTI
Your senior may exhibit one or more of these symptoms if they have, or are developing, a UTI. Contact their healthcare provider to discuss their symptoms because, if left untreated, it could lead to more severe illness or even hospitalization.
- Dysuria – painful or difficulty urinating, burning sensation
- Urinary frequency and urgency
- Nocturia – nighttime urinary urgency
- Cloudy or foul smelling urine
- Pelvic tenderness
- Pyuria – pus in urine
- Hematuria – blood in urine
- Altered mental status – confusion, dizziness, disorientation
- Potentially lower back pain or constipation
Treatment and Prevention Tips for Caregivers
Many seniors who have been diagnosed with UTI will be given an antibiotic, which may clear the infection. Unfortunately, it may set them up for drug resistance in the future.
There are other preventive treatments that can help lower the risk of UTIs:
- Closely monitor your senior for any of the symptoms listed above. If the changes come quickly, contact their healthcare provider
- Encourage adequate hydration – fluid intake throughout the day, 30-35 ml of fluids/kg/day
For the average 150# older adult = 2045-2385 ml = 69-80 ounces a day (8 ½ – 10 cups)
- Observe for signs of dehydration, such as dry tongue, dry mouth, decreased urinary output, or drier than normal skin
- Encourage cranberry products in the diet or ask the doctor about cranberry tablets
- Remove any physical limitations inhibiting seniors from getting to bathroom, especially at night; install way finding lights to help them get to bathroom at night
- Learn and practice proper cleaning techniques to thoroughly clean entire area with warm water and cloth, rinse, pat dry; avoid back to front wiping after having a bowel movement to prevent spread of germs, especially E. Coli.
- Encourage them to toilet regularly, as often as every few hours, and to take the time to empty their bladder fully
- Discuss concerns with the doctor to ensure all evaluations and treatments have been done to prevent recurrence
- Change soiled undergarments or incontinence products promptly to avoid contact with infection-causing pathogens.
Getting the proper cleaning products and incontinence supplies is one important way family caregivers can help prevent recurrence of UTI symptoms. For your convenience, we have set up a department in The Shop at Senior Care Corner with some of the supplies your senior loved one may need, with online ordering and home delivery.
Becoming a victim of a UTI should not be considered a part of normal aging but something for which to be alert and take steps to prevent.
You can help vanquish them with these tips!