Seniors are more vulnerable to UTIs and do not have the typical symptoms
Older individuals are more susceptible to UTI’s due to a weakened immune system. Many of them may not exhibit any of the typical signs of a UTI such as the burning sensation, or the pressure and pain in their lower abdomen. This is known as “asymptomatic bacteriuria” or ASB.
Almost half of men and women over age 80 living in an assisted living environment will have this condition.
The reason that they do not have symptoms is either that their immune systems are unable to fight the infection, or because they may not be able to communicate their discomfort. Without these symptomatic “alarm bells”, an undiagnosed and untreated UTI can quickly lead to complications, such as kidney damage and blood poisoning.
Sedentary lifestyle, dehydration, and inability to effectively communicate all contribute to the challenges that older adults face in getting the timely care they need when infection hits.
Anyone who has suffered the onset of a UTI can recognize the “uh-oh” feeling that comes along with it. For older adults, the onset of a UTI can be harder to diagnose and becomes quickly debilitating.
One tell-tale symptom of UTIs in seniors is a sudden change in mental state.
Medically speaking this is known as “delirium”, but it is often mistaken for the early stages of dementia. Delirium is distinct from dementia because it develops rapidly, over hours to days, rather than months to years. Key indicators of delirium include confusion, agitation, hallucinations, inability to communicate clearly, dizziness, and falling. Delirium can also be treated and often improves when the UTI is mitigated.
In long-term care facilities, UTIs account for the second most common infection and the most common cause of hospitalization for bacterial infection. Therefore, it is important for all caretakers – both professionals and those at home – to know the signs and how to treat infections properly, while also seeking to prevent them.
Monitoring and Diagnosis your UTI
The general population is not trained to discern the difference between delirium and dementia. Skilled nurses serving older adults in long-term care facilities, however, are trained to identify the difference, and when they observe a sudden change in behavior, the first thing they do is request a urine test. In most cases, the patient is diagnosed with a UTI and once treated, returns to their normal personality and behavior.
Caregivers and family members should be on the lookout for these signs and should contact their doctor to have a urinalysis completed as soon as possible.