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How to Prevent UTIs in the Elderly

How to Prevent UTIs in the Elderly

Key Summary

The elderly are often more prone to experiencing UTIs. Learn the common signs your loved one may have a UTI and how to prevent future and recurring UTIs.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the most diagnosed bacterial infection in elderly adults. UTIs are even more common for women than men, but the risk increases for everyone with age. Seniors are more vulnerable to UTIs for several reasons, such as weakened immune systems which makes them more susceptible to infection. Other factors include seniors' risk of bladder and urinary incontinence and lack of proper hygiene. Seniors are also more vulnerable to more severe and varied symptoms than younger people with UTIs, including mental confusion and increased frustration. 

A urinary tract infection can lead to serious health problems such as kidney damage and sepsis and be life-threatening if left untreated. It is crucial to identify signs of a UTI in the elderly and how to treat them. In this article, we will discuss common symptoms, including those asymptomatic signs to look for, the difference between UTIs in men and women, treatment for the elderly, and how to prevent recurrent UTIs for older adults. 

The Common First Signs of a Urinary Tract Infection in the Elderly 

Common symptoms of UTIs are cloudy, dark, or bloody urine; off-smelling urine; increased frequency of urination; a painful feeling during urination; lower abdominal pain; a low-grade fever, chills, or night sweats; and more. However, older adults have been known to be asymptomatic and not show any of the above common signs of a UTI.  

Some seniors may not be able to communicate their symptoms or express themselves when they are feeling pain. Therefore, it is essential to understand that seniors respond differently to infections. One atypical sign or symptom for the elderly with a UTI is a change in their mental state (which can commonly be mistaken for the preliminary stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease). Other symptoms seniors may experience during a UTI include: 

  • Falling and fragility 
  • Increased frustration and agitation 
  • Unusual changes in mood and behavior from their normal state 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Restlessness and withdrawal 

If your loved one shows a sudden change in their mood or behavior, they may be experiencing a urinary tract infection. They will need to be taken to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. 

How to Treat a UTI For Seniors  

Bring your loved one to their primary care doctor to prevent further infection. If you cannot get an appointment quickly, then most urgent care clinics will be able to see you sooner. Your loved one should have a urinalysis or a urine culture to identify any present bacteria and find out if antibiotics are necessary for treatment. 

You or your loved one's caregiver should ensure they take all the prescribed medication to eliminate the infectious bacteria thoroughly. Also, if the UTI is causing them mental or behavioral discomfort, they may prescribe them antipsychotic medication until the infection goes away to alleviate their stress and agitation.  

Treatment For Females vs. Males 

Females and males experiencing a UTI will be prescribed the same antibiotics. However, according to a National Library of Medicine study, the duration they should take the medication is different. Both genders may be prescribed 50–100 mg of antibiotics daily, but women will take this on average four times daily for three days, while men may take them up to seven days. 

How Can Recurrent UTIs Be Prevented in Older Adults? 

A healthy urinary tract is vital for preventing reoccurring UTIs in the elderly. Strategies for promoting good urinary tract health include the following: 

  • Proper private area hygiene (such as regular cleaning, wiping front to back for women, and more.) 
  • Maintaining sufficient fluids to avoid dehydration and promote regular urination 
  • Avoid tight clothing such as tight, unbreathable underwear. 
  • Probiotics and cranberry juice or supplements also will not hurt in preventing UTIs. 

If you might have concerns that UTI can be a sign of other conditions, our article “Can a UTI be Mistaken for Dementia?” can be a useful resource. 

Find Senior Care Near You 

UTIs in elderly persons can appear through various physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms (or no symptoms), and senior caregivers should ensure they receive the proper care if a UTI is suspected. Adequate care should be given as soon as possible, including diagnosis, treatment, and necessary follow-up cultures.  

Senior care communities offer 24/7 care and have specialists on-site trained to help the elderly stay healthy and prevent UTIs. Let Referah's team of experts help you with the process, who work directly with seniors, their families, and (by extension) medical advisors to identify the best forms of support. Talk to one of our experts about finding professional care for your loved one today.

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