Younger people tend to empty their bladder completely upon urination, which helps to keep bacteria from accumulating within the bladder. But elderly men and women experience a weakening of the muscles of the bladder. Poor bladder emptying and incontinence can lead to UTIs according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The typical signs and symptoms of a UTI include:

Urine that appears cloudy; bloody

urine; foul-smelling or strong

urine odor; frequent or urgent need

to urinate; pain or burning with

urination; pressure in the lower

pelvis; low-grade fever; night

sweats, shaking, or chills.

Due to the effects of aging, seniors often don’t exhibit any of the common symptoms – or don’t express them to their caregivers. Elderly people with a serious urinary tract infection won’t necessarily have a fever because their immune system is unable to mount a response to infection.

UTIs in the elderly are often mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, according to NIH, because symptoms include:

confusion, or delirium-like

state; agitation; hallucinations; other

behavioral changes; poor motor

skills or dizziness; falling.

Sometimes, these are the only symptoms of a UTI that show

up in the elderly—no pain, no fever, no other typical symptoms of a UTI.


Why Do the Elderly Develop UTIs?

According to NIH, the following conditions make the elderly more susceptible to UTIs:

Diabetes; urinary retention (unable

to empty the bladder,

even if your loved one has just

used the bathroom); use of

a urinary catheter; bowel

incontinence; enlarged prostate;

immobility (for example, those who

must lie in bed for extended periods

of time); surgery of any area

around the bladder; kidney stones.


How to Reduce Risk of UTIs

People with incontinence are more at risk for UTIs because of the close contact that adult briefs have with their skin, which can reintroduce bacteria into the bladder. Some recommendations to help reduce this risk include the following:

Change the briefs frequently;

encourage front-to-back cleansing;

keep the genital area clean; set

reminder timers for those who are

memory-impaired to try to use the

bathroom instead of the adult brief.


Other ways to reduce the

chance of UTIs:

Drink plenty of fluids

(2 to 4 quarts each day);

avoid caffeine and alcohol

because these irritate the bladder;

always wipe from front to back (for

women); wear cotton-cloth

underwear, and change them least

once a day.


If you think your elderly parent might have a urinary tract infection, see your doctor right away.