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Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly can Cause Surprising Symptoms

Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly can Cause Surprising Symptoms

Tips to Prevent an ER Visit This Busy Holiday Season

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in seniors are a very common reason for a trip to the ER and can cause serious health problems. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections, which could permanently damage these vital organs and even lead to kidney failure. UTIs are also a leading cause of sepsis, an extreme and potentially life-threatening bodily response to an infection. As we get older, UTIs can also manifest themselves in unusual and alarming ways.

UTIs are one of the most common infections found in geriatric patients, and account for 2% of emergency room visits by seniors. Overall, UTI’s are the reason for more than 3 million emergency department visits every year across the nation.

A UTI occurs when bacteria in the urethra, bladder or kidneys multiplies in the urine. The elderly remain more susceptible to urinary tract infections due to a variety of conditions including diabetes, weakening of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, use of a urinary catheter, urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, enlarged prostate, immobility, surgery of any area around the bladder, and kidney stones.

Typical symptoms to watch for at any age may include:

  • Cloudy, dark, or bloody urine
  • Strong- or foul-smelling urine
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Feelings of pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Low-grade fever
  • Night sweats, shaking or chills

While these are symptoms that may appear through UTIs for people of all ages, geriatric patients may experience additional distressing and seemingly unrelated symptoms including:

  • Confusion or delirium
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Other unusual behavioral changes
  • Poor motor skills or loss of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Falling

For older adults, these behavioral changes may come across as symptoms or signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. When symptoms like these occur suddenly, they may be related to an advanced UTI, and not the onset or progression of a cognitive disorder.

Seniors can reduce the likelihood of contracting a UTI by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids. Drinking cranberry juice or using cranberry tablets can also be effective but should be avoided if the senior has a personal or family history of kidney stones. Avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol can also help as these substances may irritate the bladder. Following these few simple guidelines may prevent a trip to the emergency room and the discomfort associated with this seemingly avoidable condition.

If caring for an aging senior has become a concern for any of your clients, it may be time to make the call to Oasis Senior Advisors. Your local Oasis advisor will carefully analyze factors such as medical needs, lifestyle choices, location, activities of daily living, more to find the right plan and senior housing choices.

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