UTI Diagnostics and Treatment in Older Adults

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The Importance of UTI Diagnostics and Treatment in Older Adults

            When we are younger having an urinary tract infection, or UTI, is frequently seen simply as an annoyance. Common symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pressure in the abdomen
  • Thick, cloudy, and/or odorous urine
  • Feeling as though you are unable to fully empty your bladder
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

When we are younger and have the ability to self-advocate more readily, the identification and treatment of UTI’s is fairly easy and straight forward. As older adult enter periods in their life in which they have less autonomy and are more reliant on others, their risk of developing a more serious UTI increases. Many times older adults will experience more unique symptoms such as:

  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • The experiencing of hallucinations
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased agitation

Complications of untreated UTIs, particularly in the elderly include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Sepsis

Older adults in extended care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities are more likely to experience complications from UTIs. Other factors that put loved ones at risk for developing UTIs include incontinence, being female, having a urinary catheter, changes to urinary routine, and history of UTIs.

Some preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of UTIs include increasing water intake, decreasing the consumption of caffeine, wiping front to back when utilizing the restroom, and changing incontinence pads promptly. When you or a loved one is considering moving into a long-term care facility, it is important that you ask staff about their training related to the identification and treatment of UTIs in their residents. UTIs, once identified are typically very easy to treat and usually only require antibiotics.

While living in the world of COVID19, it may be more difficult to make contact with loved ones living in extended care facilities. Advocating for your loved ones in extended care facilities is now more important than ever to ensure that conditions such as UTIs do not go unchecked. Checking in with the facility and your loved one to ensure that proper monitoring of health is imperative. If you notice any sudden behavioral changes in your loved on such as a sudden increase in confusion, agitation, or restlessness, consider requesting that your loved one be checked for a UTI before jumping to the conclusion that dementia is the cause of these changes.