Healthcare Tips

How Do UTIs Affect Seniors Differently?

January 27, 2021

Urinary tract infections may seem like a pretty common problem, especially for women.
However, the body’s response to the stress of infection changes with aging, making UTIs more
dangerous for the senior set. This is especially true if they suffer from dementia.

Causes and symptoms

UTIs occur when bacteria, usually E.coli, enters the urinary tract through the urethra. From
there, bacteria grows, causing an infection to take hold. This infection may remain in the
bladder or it spread to the kidneys, causing a more serious problem. The most common UTI
symptoms include:

● A strong urge to urinate
● Burning pain associated with urination
● Passing only small amounts of urine frequently
● Urine that is cloudy, red, pink or cola colored
● Pelvic pain
● Strong-smelling urine

If the bacteria present in the bladder spreads to the kidneys, you may experience more severe
pain located in the back and sides of the body as well as fever, chills, nausea or vomiting.
Because the symptoms in younger and middle-aged people tend to be more clear-cut, UTIs are,
in general, easier to identify and treat. The immune system changes as the body ages, though,
making it more difficult to recognize a UTI in older adults, especially in those with dementia.
Any infection is a stressor to the body, and for someone with dementia, additional stress can
lead to a worsening of symptoms.

Seniors’ symptoms

Seniors may experience pain and fever with a UTI. A senior with dementia could initially
experience symptoms like increased confusion, hallucinations, agitation, withdrawal or
dizziness. Because pain may not be present, UTIs may be more difficult to identify. When left
untreated, the bacteria from this infection can spread to the kidneys and even further into the
body, causing sepsis.

That being said, it’s important to keep an eye on aging loved ones, especially those with
dementia. Look for changes in behavior or mental health that could signal a deeper problem,
such as an underlying infection. Women are more at risk for UTIs, especially once they reach
menopause. Anyone who relies on a catheter is also in the high-risk category. UTIs may be preventable, however, by hydrating, using good bathroom hygiene and making trips to the
bathroom regularly.

When it comes to UTIs and other bacterial infections, ensuring that we are vigilant about our
own health and anyone in our care is vital. Various simple tests can be used to determine if the
infection is a UTI, and antibiotics are usually prescribed for treatment. It’s important to get it
checked out by a doctor early on. Keep an eye on the senior in your life and always speak to a
physician about any worsening symptoms of dementia or other present odd behaviors.

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