Delirium, Often Mistaken For Dementia, Is Caused By UTIs in Seniors

Everyone has a story about a grandparent or parent who suddenly started acting strangely…seeing bugs on the wall, talking gibberish or acting out in ways that they never have before.

They will all tell you the story of how they initially thought that their relative had dementia, which scared them.  Then they talk about the rush to the hospital on doctor’s orders. And they conclude the story by saying how shocked they were to find out that this mental condition was caused by a UTI, and how the patient was back to themselves again within a few days of antibiotic treatment.

This condition is known as “delirium”, and the crying shame of it all is that it is entirely preventable today.  Doctors have given up because they are no longer allowed to prescribe long-term, preventative antibiotics  to these patients.

So now the children of these patients are stepping in to make sure that their parents are taken care of.

Why Seniors Get UTIs So Often

At a very high level, a weakened immune system and the inability to fight infections is the main reason older individuals are more prone to getting UTIs.

And most seniors do not exhibit the common symptoms of UTIs like the burning sensation while urinating or the pressure and pain in the lower abdomen. The medical term for this is “asymptomatic bacteriuria” or ASB.

With a growing community of seniors in assisted living and or in-home care, it is very important for caregivers to know the signs of a UTI, and how to diagnose and treat it immediately.

Urinary tract infections are the most frequent infections in long-term care facilities.  And because patients have no symptoms, they often go undiagnosed for too long, resulting not only in delirium but also  a kidney infection and possibly sepsis, which can result in death.

What To Look For

If you notice a sudden behavior change in your patient or loved one, this is one important key indicator of a UTI. Symptoms of “delirium” can include confusion, agitation, hallucinations, inability to communicate clearly, dizziness, and falling.  Delirium disappears quickly once the UTI is treated.

Other symptoms include: back pain (around the ribs), fever, dehydration.

Doctors Have Few Options Available To Treat or Prevent UTIs in Seniors

A few years ago, doctors were prescribing a dose of daily antibiotics to elderly patients to ward off these infections.  That practice has now been prohibited by the AMA, because it has resulted in an “antibiotics resistance crisis”.  Basically, the bacteria have developed an immunity to the drugs, rendering most antibiotics ineffective.

This leaves these elderly patients vulnerable to sudden and serious UTI flare-ups; in many cases they will need to be hospitalized and administered intravenous antibiotics.  The medical community appears to be taking a “last resort” approach to dealing with this preventable problem.

While there are proven preventative natural supplements available, doctors are not actively recommending them because (as with all vitamins and dietary supplements) the FDA has not reviewed or approved them.

The “Kids” Are Stepping In To Help

With doctors providing few options, the children of these seniors have stepped in to become UTI advocates and caregivers. Most of these women and men have also had to learn how to manage their own UTIs and have figured out what to do.

There are three simple things that they are doing which is helping to prevent these sudden attacks.

1. They are buying urinary test strips. In the absence of symptoms, these caregivers are testing their parent or loved one frequently to make sure that an infection is not present.

Monitoring and Diagnosing Their UTI

2. They are making sure they get a daily dose of natural supplements. There are two natural supplements which have been proven to clear up, and protect against, UTIs. They are D-Mannose powder and Cranberry Extract with 36 mg. PAC.  Both have been proven safer and more effective than antibiotics.  Here is a link to the medical research covered in the NIH (National Institutes of Health) database on both supplements

3. They Are Setting Up A Monthly Delivery Service.   Just as they are making sure that their parent is getting their prescription drugs every day, the kids are arranging to have the D-Mannose and Cranberry delivered to their door on a regular basis.

  • If the parent is living in an assisted living facility, they are sending them a monthly supply of both supplements and asking the nurses to dispense them daily.
  • If the parent is living alone, they are sending both the test strips and supplements, and checking to make sure they test regularly.
  • If their parent lives with them, they supervise the urine testing and daily vitamin regimen at home.