Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by ashley.davis
UTI, or Urinary Tract Infection, is a pretty common infection among seniors. It is even more common in older women. And this is one problem that may annoy the caregivers. But it can also be quite severe for the seniors.
Every 1 in 3 senior infections in nursing homes is UTI. So, how do you know you have a UTI as well? The signs and symptoms are your answer to this question.
Ask yourself- what are the symptoms of a UTI in seniors? Don’t know the answers? Well, we do. This article focuses on UTI symptoms in the elderly. And by the end, you would build up a complete knowledge about UTIs.
What Is UTI?
As mentioned already, the full form of UTI is Urinary Tract Infection. Just like the name, it means getting infections in the urinary tract. So the question is- what does the urinary tract mean?
The urinary tract includes several key organs involved with the urinary functions. They can be the kidneys, ureters, urethra, and bladder. Their role is to extract urine from our bodies.
UTI is an infection caused by bacteria. We will look into the complete process just a little later. But for now, know that UTIs can cause severe problems to the kidneys.
UTI infection in seniors results in Sepsis, kidney failure and other health issues. In fact, it can become life-threatening when UTIs spread all across our bloodstream.
How Does UTI Occur?
Among the 4 organs mentioned above, let’s talk about the urethra. It is the final organ that extracts urine. During the opening of the urethra, bacteria can enter our bodies. This is the first stage of UTI.
After that, the bacteria can infect our immune systems. As a result, it starts multiplying inside the body. And they infect the kidneys, bladder and ureters. This causes the infection known as UTI.
Senior women are more at risk for UTI than older men. This is majorly because of the size of the urethra. Women have smaller urethras. Thus, bacteria can travel to the bodies crossing a small distance. Also, seniors are at high risk because of their weak immune systems.
5 Things to Know about Elderly UTI
Lack of knowledge can increase the risks of UTI. As we know already, UTI can be life-threatening. So, preventing it is only possible when you know everything about UTI. Here are the 5 most important things everyone should know about elderly UTI.
1. Confusion isn’t a signal of UTI
Seniors become confused and caregivers start assuming that it is UTI. But UTI is not responsible for the confusion. So let us clear this out.
Confusion is a sign of aging. It is usual for seniors to become confused when they are getting old. Confusion or delirium are also common among seniors who are depressed and malnourished. So, nobody should assume that seniors have UTIs when they are confused.
2. Urine bacteria may not always be a problem
Bacteria in the urinary areas can be quite common. If you drink enough fluid, it is possible to extract them. So, just the presence of bacteria doesn’t mean UTI.
So, there should be multiple signs and symptoms of UTI other than bacteria. Treatment should only be considered when you notice those signs.
3. There should be more than one sign
Fever is a very common symptom of UTI. Along with this, urine problem is a must. So, UTI doesn’t necessarily have only one symptom.
We will discuss more UTI symptoms in the elderly in the following parts of the article.
4. Underlying problems can be the cause of UTI
Having other health issues is quite common among older adults. And they may increase the chances of UTI for them. Also, underlying problems can produce UTI-like symptoms.
For example, bladder obstruction is a popular issue among seniors. This has almost similar symptoms as UTI. And bladder obstruction can also be more dangerous than UTI. So, if doctors treat it as UTI, bladder obstruction can still cause harm to them.
5. No need for powerful antibiotics
Narrow-spectrum antibiotics are good enough for UTI treatment. But, of course, for the beginning days. They have minimal side effects. And can treat UTI as well.
Also, powerful antibiotics can cause problems when seniors have kidney diseases. They can cause dangerous side effects in such conditions.
What Are the Causes of UTI in Older People?
The primary cause of UTI is bacteria. As mentioned already, bacteria can enter the body through the urethra. And then work its “magic” inside our bodies to cause several health problems. And UTI is just one of the many.
But to be more specific, E.coli is the bacteria that is responsible for UTI. The full form of E.coli is Escherichia Coli. It is the primary pathogen that enters the body through the urethra.
There can be other bacteria causing UTI as well. For example, when using a urine catheter, seniors can come across two different bacteria. The names of them are Staphylococci and Enterococci.
Why Are Seniors at Risk of Urinary Infections?
Many people are prone to urinary infections. But our main topic of discussion is older adults. This is because they are at a very high risk of UTI.
Anna Dowd, a gerontological nurse practitioner in Chicago, explains the primary reason why are the elderly prone to UTIs? According to her, the immune system in seniors keeps on weakening as they grow old. As a result, the bacteria entering the urethra find a favorable environment in their bodies.
Along with this, seniors may already have many different diseases. Those conditions make them susceptible to UTIs. For example, dehydration in seniors can lead to UTIs.Here is a list of medical conditions that can lead to increased risks of UTIs.
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
- Lack of mobility
- Urine retention
- Using a urinary catheter
- Urinary incontinence
Among these conditions, the last one puts seniors to be at a very high risk of UTIs. Urinary incontinence products come to close contact with the skin. As a result, adults can be at a high risk of infecting their urethra.
Women are even more at risk. The primary reason is that their urethra is smaller than men. But there is more to this story. Women face a weakening of their bladder muscles as they age. As a result, the bladder cannot empty the area by extracting the urine. This causes the infection of the urinary tract. Other reasons for senior women to be at risk can be the following:
Producing lower amounts of estrogen. This particularly happens after menopause. And it creates good and bad bacteria imbalance in their vagina.
- Urine blockage due to kidney stones
- Using urine catheter
- Immune system deterioration
What Are the Symptoms of UTI in Seniors?
Symptoms of UTI can vary from person to person, depending on their age. For example, a young adult may experience symptoms that are very different from older adults. And when things get really dangerous, the symptoms can change as well.
So, we have divided the symptoms of UTI among seniors into 3 parts. Each part has some similar symptoms. And there are some unique ones as well.
1. Common Symptoms of UTI
The common symptoms of UTI are usually found in almost every person with UTI. For example, adult women can have these symptoms. Here is a list of common UTI symptoms:
- Urine containing blood
- The color of urine becoming cloudy or dark
- Urine smelling foul or strong
- Frequent urinating
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Sweats, shakes and chills during the nights
- Low fever
2. Symptoms of UTI in Seniors
UTI in the elderly may seem completely different. Seniors over the age of 65 may not even experience any of the common symptoms. So, how do urinary infection symptoms in the elderly look like? Here is the list:
- Behavioral change
- Lack of balance
- Falling dangerously
This happens majorly because the immune system in elderlies is very weak. So, older people will experience these symptoms all of a sudden. And the chances are that there is an infection in any urinary organs when these symptoms pop up.
3. UTI Symptoms in the Worst Condition
The UTI symptoms in seniors will change when their condition is at worst. They will start experiencing these symptoms when the kidneys are affected. The symptoms are as follows:
- High fever
- Back pain
- Feeling nauseous
- Vomiting regularly
- Flushed skin
What Are the Warning Signs of UTI?
Top warning signs of UTI in seniors will start appearing when it’s left untreated. And these signs are extremely dangerous. They can even be life-threatening. Here are 2 warning signs of UTI in older adults.
1. Kidney failure
One of the most dangerous side effects of UTI in seniors is kidney damage. If UTI is left untreated, this is bound to happen. And kidney damage is a near-death call for older adults. This is a serious issue. So, it is crucial to start treating UTI as soon as possible.
Confusion, hallucination and dysfunction are some UTI symptoms in seniors. All these are connected to the brain. So, why does UTI affect the brain?
UTI can affect the brain when the immune system gets completely damaged. This results in the bacteria getting into the bloodstream and flowing all around the body. And this complication is called Sepsis. According to the Sepsis Alliance, more than 50% of sepsis is caused by UTIs among older adults.
What Is the Connection between UTI and Dementia?
Ever thought that a urinary infection can be connected with dementia? Yes, according to our Dementia resource guide, UTI and dementia have special connections between them.
The symptoms of UTI in the elderly with dementia can vary from that in any other senior without dementia. The common symptoms of UTI are completely invisible in this case. Knowing about it can help in caring for loved ones remarkably.
People with dementia are more likely to experience the cognitive symptoms of UTI. For instance, they will feel more unorganized, dysfunctional and confused. The behavioral changes will be more severe than other seniors.
UTI can also exacerbate the effects of dementia. But it must be remembered that UTI is not a side effect of dementia. It is also not a sign of dementia. UTI itself has some behavioral changes like Alzheimer’s patients feel. But when seniors have both UTI and Alzheimer’s, these changes seem more agitating.
How to Prevent UTI in Seniors?
Though Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem among older adults, there are several things that can be done to prevent them. Here are some of the ways:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- Avoid using harsh soaps or detergents on their genitals
- Good hygiene practices
- Avoid using douches
- Urinate often and don’t hold back
- Cut down on alcohol and caffeine
- See a doctor if the symptoms persist
3 Things to Remember about UTI in Seniors:
1. The common signs can be seen in any adult, especially in adult women.
2. Seniors display special symptoms of UTI like hallucination, dizziness, falling and behavioural changes.
3. Older adults must be careful of the warning signs like kidney failure, sepsis and dementia.
So, the Symptoms of a UTI in seniors say how important it is to prevent and treat it. The signs can be quite dangerous if UTI is left untreated. And to top off everything, UTIs can even be a cause of sudden death.
So, what to do to prevent UTIs in the elderly? That is a whole different world of concept. Keep an eye on our website to read about UTI prevention.
But for now, it is vital that caregivers take UTIs seriously. The symptoms can range from low to high fever. And there can be some more dangerous symptoms of UTI as well. Most importantly, remember to consider more than one symptom before considering UTI treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions About UTI in Seniors
How to prevent falls in the elderly with dementia?
Dementia falls are quite common, especially among seniors. Here are some ways to prevent falls in the elderly with dementia:
- Ensure a safe living space with enough lighting, space, and furniture
- Remove clutters from the house
- Set up alarms, and reminders in different places
- Install grab bars, and use non-slip mats or flooring
- Ensure there are no loud noises coming from the outside
- Clear the walking paths by removing any cords, rugs, etc.
Can UTIs cause confusion in seniors?
Yes. UTIs can cause sudden confusion or delirium in seniors.
Why do seniors get UTI infections?
Seniors get UTIs because of weakened bladder muscles and pelvic floor. It happens due to age and vulnerable immune systems.
Can a senior die from a UTI?
Usually, UTIs are not lethal. However, if the sepsis becomes severe and causes septic shocks, it can lead to death.
Can senior inactivity lead to UTIs?
Being physically inactive and lack of exercise has been linked to developing UTIs. Besides, a lack of physical activity also has an effect by impairing blood circulation throughout your entire system – including but not limited to; joints & nervous systems.
How long should a senior be hospitalized for a UTI?
For prolonged or complicated UTI cases, an older adult may have to spend 4 to 5 days in the hospital.