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Urinary Tract Infections Commonly Occur Among Seniors

In 2023, I lost two special senior gentlemen – one a dear friend in his 80s, and one a client in his 90s. They both passed away due to the repercussions of acute urinary tract infections (UTIs).

My friend lived alone in Tarpon Springs and routinely enjoyed Ketel One martinis without proper nutrition or hydration.

Our elderly client lived in a long-term care facility. He was incontinent, frail, and unable to bathe, dress, go to the bathroom, or change his soiled briefs without help. It was nearly impossible for our caregiver or the facility staff to keep him hydrated because he didn’t want to have an accident in his incontinence briefs or have to go to the bathroom with someone’s help. Therefore, he would hold it until he couldn’t anymore.

Both men were diagnosed multiple times with UTIs, some of which were successfully treated. Sadly, their final diagnoses were acute UTIs that resulted in urosepsis, a blood infection that ultimately took their lives.

I miss both of these seniors very much, and I chose to share their stories for two reasons: 1) March is National Kidney Month, and 2) UTIs commonly occur among seniors increasing their risk of severe illness and death.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is exactly what the name suggests: an infection in the urinary tract. The urinary tract involves the:

  • Urethra
  • Ureters
  • Bladder
  • Kidneys

According to Healthline, “When bacteria enter the urethra and your immune system doesn’t fight them off, they may spread to the bladder and kidneys. The result is a UTI.”

Symptoms of a UTI

The classic symptoms of UTI include:

  • Urethral burning with urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent urination
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Smelly urine
  • Incontinence
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Falls
  • Urinary retention
  • Decreased mobility
  • Decreased appetite
  • Confusion (especially for seniors with dementia)

If infection spreads to the kidneys, other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Flushed skin
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

It may be difficult to determine if a senior has a UTI if they don’t present with classic symptoms due to a slow or suppressed immune response.

What Causes UTIs?

“The main cause of UTIs, at any age, is usually bacteria. Escherichia coli is the primary cause, but other organisms can also cause a UTI. In older adults who use catheters or live in a nursing home or other full-time care facility, bacteria such as Enterococci and Staphylococci are more common causes,” says Healthline.

How Older Adults Can Prevent UTIs

It’s impossible to prevent all UTIs, but there are ways to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Change incontinence briefs frequently
  • Avoid bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol
  • Keep the genital area clean by wiping front to back after using the bathroom
  • Avoid douches
  • Urinate as soon as the urge strikes
  • Use vaginal estrogen

If you have a senior loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, be sure to do your due diligence.

Healthline explains, “Proper nursing home or long-term care is critical in preventing UTIs, especially for people who are immobile and unable to take care of themselves. They rely on others to keep them clean and dry. If you or a loved one is a nursing home resident, talk to management about how they manage personal hygiene. Make sure they’re aware of UTI symptoms in older adults and how to respond.”

In addition, a proper diet with specific levels of protein, fluid, and sodium, coupled with regular exercise, will also benefit the kidneys and urinary tract.

Try to keep plenty of these kidney-friendly foods in your diet:

  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflower
  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Fish
  • Egg whites
  • Red Grapes
  • Olive Oil

If You Have a UTI

Healthline says, “Antibiotics cure most UTIs. Without treatment, a UTI can spread to the kidneys and the bloodstream. This may lead to a life-threatening blood infection. Severe infections may require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics. These can take weeks to resolve.”

Get medical attention immediately if you suspect that you or an aging loved one has a UTI.

A compassionate Home Helpers® caregiver can help seniors prevent UTIs by offering hydration and medication reminders, providing personal care assistance with bathing, dressing, and toileting, preparing nutritious meals and snacks that promote kidney and urinary tract health, transporting to and from doctor appointments, and so much more.

I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to discuss your specific needs, or those of your loved one, and devise a personalized care plan to help make life easier.

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have been ranked among the Home Care Pulse Top 100 Leaders in Experience for home care providers and to have received these awards in 2024: Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice, the Best of Home Care® Employer of Choice, the Best of Home Care® Leader in Experience, as well as being named a 2023 Caring Super Star.

We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier® 727.942.2539