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.