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Let’s Talk UTIs in Older Adults

August 19, 2020

Urinary tract infections (or UTIs) are not fun at any age. However, infections are more common as we age, and a UTI can have more detrimental effects in older adults. Although it can seem like an uncomfortable topic, make sure to talk to your aging peers or older loved ones to help prevent these common infections from turning into a more serious medical condition.

UTI Risk Factors in Aging Adults

Older adults are more likely to get a UTI because they have many additional risk factors. Some conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes require people to wear incontinence briefs, which can cause infection if not changed often enough. Other risk factors can include dementia, use of a catheter, a prolapsed bladder or bladder/bowel incontinence. 

Women are more at risk for UTIs than men, at any age, because they have a shorter urethra and bacteria does not need to travel as far to infect the bladder. Aging women can have more of a risk of UTIs because estrogen deficiency can cause an overgrowth of E. coli. Older men may be at more risk if they have kidney or bladder stones, enlarged prostate or bacterial prostatitis. 

Senior-Specific UTI Symptoms

Most individuals have had a UTI before, and are aware of the classic symptoms, including burning with urination, pelvic pain, frequent urination, abnormal urine odor or fever and chills. However, these signs may not always be evident—or occur at all—in seniors with UTIs.

Although the exact cause is unknown, UTIs in older adults can cause behavioral symptoms like confusion, especially for individuals already experiencing dementia. Some additional atypical UTI symptoms that seniors may notice are incontinence, agitation, falls or decreased mobility and appetite. At SHC, our companion caregivers are specifically trained in bathroom and incontinence care to identify additional needs and serve your aging loved one.

Treatments for UTIs

If an older adult you care for has developed a UTI, they will typically be treated with an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin. Help the affected senior get to the doctor as soon as symptoms arise, and stay on the course for the entire duration, even if symptoms end. 

It’s also recommended to drink lots of water to continue flushing the infection from their system. Our caregivers are well-trained to provide bathroom assistance, as well as medication and meal reminders, to help your loved one recover from infections and other medical issues. 

Early Prevention

As we age, infections like UTIs become more frequent, but there are some measures we can take to prevent risk for them. Always drink plenty of water; the health benefits of sufficient water intake are innumerable. Aging seniors should always urinate as soon as they feel the urge, and reminders can be set by caregivers to use the restroom for those who may have memory impairments. 

Older adults can also opt for breathable cotton underwear that gets changed once a day, or regularly change incontinence briefs if those are worn instead. Women should take extra care to wipe front to back, empty the bladder after sex and take showers rather than baths. 

If your family is in need of a companion caregiver to support an aging senior living at home, don’t hesitate to contact Senior Home Companions by scheduling a free consultation today.