Say goodbye to your UTI
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are uncomfortable for healthy adults, kids, and seniors alike. Among all groups, seniors are more likely to contract a UTI. This is due to two main reasons: weakened immune systems and personal hygiene. Many seniors suffer from comorbidities of which weakened immune systems are a symptom. Even if comorbidities aren’t present, seniors’ immune systems are generally weaker than those of younger adults. Seniors are also prone to lapses in personal hygiene, whether due to dementia, Alzheimer’s, or reduced energy levels. This is a problem because good personal hygiene, especially in the bathroom, is an essential defense against UTIs. Since cognitive function plays a big role in remembering to maintain good personal hygiene, seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia are at particular risk.
If this is an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Common symptoms of a UTI
A few of the biggest UTI symptoms in seniors, including confusion, disorientation, and dizziness, can be attributed to other medical issues, making it difficult to diagnose a UTI in your elderly loved one. Because many seniors also won’t present with genitourinary symptoms, diagnosis can be even tougher. The key is to watch out for cognitive symptoms paired with other telltale signs of a UTI, such as:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Frequent urination
- Cloudy urine
- Lower back pain
In addition, keep in mind that urine held in the bladder too long can foster bacteria growth, which can lead to a UTI. Many seniors, in trying to save themselves the embarrassment of frequent visits to the restroom due to incontinence issues, lower their daily fluid intake. The result? Urine stays in the bladder longer. Even if it’s not that much urine, it can still lead to a UTI.
Since UTIs in seniors are so difficult to diagnose, it’s best to seek medical care if you suspect there might be a problem. Our qualified medical professionals at DispatchHealth are experienced at diagnosing UTIs in seniors, so don’t leave it up to chance.
What causes UTIs in seniors?
You know seniors are more likely to contract a UTI than a kid or a younger adult, but what exactly causes the UTI in the first place? UTIs are caused by bacteria or fungi that’s entered the urinary tract. This often happens due to a blockage of urine flow and stored urine in the bladder.
The most common UTI-causing bacteria: E. coli. E. coli is responsible for about 85% of all UTIs in adults. It can contaminate food, such as ground beef and raw vegetables, which ends up in your stool. Since the anus and the urethra are so close to one another, especially in females, good bathroom habits are essential protection against UTIs.
Seniors who reside in a hospital or another care facility and have a catheter in place are also at high risk of contracting a UTI. Catheters provide an easy entry point for UTI-causing bacteria, and it doesn’t help that UTI-causing bacteria commonly infiltrate catheters.
How to prevent UTIs in seniors
UTIs are incredibly painful and uncomfortable to deal with for even the healthiest among us. Paired with other comorbidities that seniors often have, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or kidney disease, UTIs become even worse. Avoiding a UTI is far preferable to having to treat one. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to minimize the risk of contracting a UTI. These prevention tips are especially important for seniors to incorporate into everyday life:
- Encourage wiping front-to-back. Bacteria found in stool, like E. coli, can easily make its way into your urinary tract when you wipe back-to-front. It may seem like an odd conversation, but it’s important to remind your elderly loved one about the importance of wiping in the other direction.
- Cook food well to avoid foodborne illness. When we eat foods contaminated with bacteria, that bacteria end up in our stool, making entry into the urinary tract more likely (especially when seniors aren’t practicing the best bathroom habits, like wiping back-to-front). It’s worth it to invest in a food thermometer to test the internal temperature of meats before serving them to a senior. It’s also important to wash fruits and veggies thoroughly before eating and to put away leftovers as soon as possible after cooking.
- Stay hygienic. If your elderly loved one has incontinence issues, make sure to change pads, diapers, or soiled undergarments as quickly as possible, as these are breeding grounds for UTI-causing bacteria. The same applies to bedsheets.
- Encourage hydration. Seniors are at high risk of becoming dehydrated because they often don’t experience the sensation of thirst, or simply forget to drink water, as is the case with most Alzheimer’s patients or seniors with dementia. And since seniors often don’t want to deal with incontinence issues, they sometimes avoid drinking water altogether. To help prevent this with your elderly loved ones, keep plenty of water bottles handy, provide tasty beverages like Gatorade or juice, and encourage them to take small, frequent sips, which can be less intimidating than drinking a tall glass of water.
If left untreated
The likelihood of complications is low if a UTI is treated quickly. If left untreated, however, UTIs can lead to severe consequences, many of which can result in hospitalization. They include:
- Permanent kidney damage
- Recurrent infections
If you suspect a UTI in your elderly loved one, contact DispatchHealth to request in-home treatment. We accept most major health insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid, and always send a detailed report to home health agencies, living facilities, and/or primary care physicians after treatment. We can arrive within a couple of hours with 70 percent of the tools you’ll find in the emergency room (ER). Our services cost about one-tenth of what you’d pay at the ER, too. Request care for non-life-threatening conditions through our website, our app, or via phone if you’re ready to say goodbye to your UTI.