More than eight million doctor visits a year are due to UTIs; urinary tract infection according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Both men (one in ten) and women (one if five) suffer from UTIs as they age.
UTIs are very treatable (antibiotics), but like any infection, can turn serious very quickly if untreated. UTIs develop when bacteria reaches the urethra and bladder. If the bacteria progress into the kidneys further complications may arise.
Seniors experience more frequent UTIs for several reasons related to the aging process: muscle weakness, suppressed immune system, and trouble emptying the bladder because of diabetes or dementia just to name a few.
Other risk factors include:
- History of infection
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
- Any blockages affecting urine flow
- Being bedridden or largely immobile
Symptoms to look for in your elderly loved one if you suspect a UTI include:
- Change in behavior
- Low grade fever
- Pain or burning during urination
- Cloudy or blood in urine
- Pressure in lower pelvis
- Frequent need to urinate
- Foul smelling odor from urine
Besides the physical symptoms, reasons to suspect and treat a UTI in older adults are sudden behavioral changes.
These changes can include confusion, dizziness, and falls. For someone who doesn’t have a dementia or cognitive impairment, the change is very noticeable and a UTI can often be the cause.
Once treatment has begun, a UTI will usually clear up within a couple of weeks. If your parent lives alone, we recommend someone looking in on them to check whether they are taking medication as prescribed, that they are eating properly and that their medical condition is improving.