Age can pose a number of embarrassing health conditions for seniors and one of them is a Urinary Tract Infection or UTI. Elders are easily at risk from UTI due to their age and diminishing health or vigour. In fact, most aged women are prone to urinary tract infections after their menopause.
Urinary tract infections are the second most common infection in elders. This is why one must assimilate facts about UTI in seniors.
What are Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)?
An infection of the urinary system caused by fungi or bacteria is called a Urinary Tract Infection. UTIs can affect any part of the urinary tract like the kidney, the urinary bladder, the ureters or the urethra.
The symptoms of UTI in older adults are increased urination, urgent urination, painful urination and urinary incontinence, etc. Cloudy, odorous or thick urine with traces of blood can also be a sign of UTI. Fever, fatigue, nausea and vomiting are also signs of urinary tract infections. Seniors often experience UTIs more than younger adults.
Why Do Seniors Suffer from UTIs?
Seniors above 60 are at great risk from UTIs. With age, the muscles of the urinary bladder and pelvic floor get weakened. This leads to incomplete emptying of balder and urinary incontinence, resulting in urinary tract infections. Other factors like diabetes or a weakened immune system may also lead to UTIs in seniors.
But in elders, urinary tract infections are manifested differently than in younger adults.
How is the UTIs of Seniors Different from that of Young Adults?
While all the symptoms of urinary tract infections are the same for both youngsters and seniors, one factor clearly makes the difference. And that is delirium. Delirium is seen as a sign of UTI in seniors.
Delirium is a state of confusion and disorientation that seniors might experience due to their UTI. They feel agitated and nervous and become easily withdrawn. This shows clearly that they might be in a state of delirium caused by a urinary tract infection.
The reason why urinary tract infections cause delirium in aged adults is that with age, the blood supply to their brain reduces. This may allow the infection from the urinary tract to pass to the nervous system causing disorientation or delirium in seniors.
If elders exhibit such signs of hallucination, agitation or withdrawal, they must be tested for UTIs. Urinary tract infections, if left untreated can lead to a fatal infection of the blood called sepsis in older adults.
Above all, a urinary tract infection can cause tremendous stress to an elder. And if the elder is suffering from other health ailments like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia, it might make their condition worse.
But unfortunately, most seniors fail to understand that the underlying cause for their delirium in old age might be a UTI. Since the delirious condition mimics other illnesses like dementia, the urinary tract infection might go unnoticed, leading to other severe complications like acute renal failure and sometimes even death. This is why UTIs should never be ignored in elders.
How are UTIs Caused in Seniors?
Urinary tract infections in seniors may be caused by E. coli bacteria present in the stools of seniors entering their urinary system. Elders who were hospitalized are at major risk from UTIs. Senior patients having a catheter are at greater risk from urinary tract infections. Elders who had a history of UTI, or bowel or urinary incontinence are more likely to get it again. Diabetic seniors are also more prone to UTIs.
In males, kidney or bladder stones or an enlarged prostate can lead to a urinary tract infection. Aged women can acquire UTIs easily due to estrogen deficiency. For a menstruating woman, the estrogen protects her vagina and urethra from E. coli. Once this estrogen is lost, there is a greater risk of UTI for post-menopausal women.
Diagnosis and Treatment of UTIs in Seniors
Urinary tract infections in seniors might not be detected easily due to their confusing symptoms like delirium. But an expert urologist can confirm UIT in seniors with a urinalysis. This is followed by a urine culture to identify the type of bacteria that causes the UTI.
UTI treatment in seniors begins with the intake of antibiotics prescribed by the urologist. This is taken along with antipsychotic drugs to prevent delirium. Severe cases of UTI might need hospitalization to administer intravenous medication.
How Can Seniors Prevent UTIs in Their Advanced Years?
With the right kind of care and nursing assistant for the elderly, seniors can prevent the occurrence of urinary tract infections in their advanced years. Drinking lots of water and fluids can help prevent UTI in seniors. Elders must avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Changing their underwear frequently and keeping the genital area clean can help seniors avoid urinary infections. Elders must never hold their urine and must urinate as soon as they get the urge to prevent UTIs. Elderly women can use vaginal estrogen to protect themselves from urinary infections.
Invalid or bedridden seniors require extra care similar to senior home healthcare in order to prevent UTIs. Their caregivers must change their diapers and innerwear frequently and must help them in their personal hygiene.
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Urinary tract infections are common in seniors. They can be easily prevented with the right care and alertness of action by elders and their caregivers.