A Common But Dangerous Infection in Seniors

As a family member and/or caregiver, seeing your senior suffer is very hard.

Seniors can be affected with a variety of different types of infections ranging from sores that don’t heal to surgical sites that don’t close up as fast as expected and respiratory infections that hit hard and hang on.

One of the most prevalent infections impacting seniors is a urinary tract infection.  Sometimes our seniors can’t tell us what the problem is, where the pain is or when something doesn’t feel right.  Urinary tract infections (UTI) can be very dangerous when not treated quickly.  Symptoms in seniors can be different than in younger people.  Oftentimes they don’t feel pain or pressure when urinating; there is no fever present or other symptoms that we generally associate with a urinary tract infection.

Signs of a UTI in seniors:

  • Confusion, any change in mental status
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Behavior changes
  • Falling or unsteady gait
  • Problems with motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • Facial grimaces

A startling number of times, dementia is blamed for these symptoms by healthcare workers instead of connecting these symptoms with a UTI.   Therefore, treatment can be slow to start.

Symptoms you may notice:

  • Foul, strong smelling urine
  • More frequent trips to the bathroom especially at night
  • Inability to empty the bladder fully leaving a feeling that your senior needs to go when they just went
  • Blood tinged urine
  • Pressure or mild pain when urinating
  • Night sweats, shaking or chills
  • Lower back pain

Your senior may not express these symptoms to you, but if you are on the lookout you will notice.  Contact their doctor when these symptoms appear.

Reasons for UTIs in seniors:

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Immobility
  • Kidney stones
  • Previous bladder surgery
  • Bowel changes, incontinence or constipation

How to avoid UTIs:

  • Keep the area clean after using the restroom with front to back wiping
  • Drink enough fluids
  • If using adult briefs, keep them changed regularly
  • Include cranberry juice regularly or take cranberry tablets if prescribed by your doctor
  • Limit caffeine containing beverages which might irritate your bladder

UTIs can be prevented with the strategies above.  If recurrent UTIs plague your senior, you may want to ask your doctor about maintenance medications that might help reduce the number of infections present.  Not all infections are avoidable however.

We would like to hear what works for your seniors.

3 thoughts on “A Common But Dangerous Infection in Seniors”

  1. Mom is 89 and has dementia. She is incontinent and susceptible to UTIs. She drinks water and cranberry juice 3 or more times daily. We make sure to change her diaper every four hours or less. She is protected with barrier creams and bathed every day.
    Even with all these precautions, she gets UTIs at least once a month. Could it be because she is mobile only twice a day for a 1/2 hour each time? There isn’t much we can do about that since she has lost a lot of muscle strength from several hospitalizations.

    • Sorry to hear that your mom is having so much trouble with UTIs. They can be very uncomfortable, painful and keep her from doing things during the day. There are many causes of UTI infections and it sounds like you have most of the bases covered. Perhaps her doctor or gynecologist could find some cause for these frequent infections. Good luck to you both!

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