A urinary tract infection (UTI) affects one or more of the structures that urine passes through before exiting the body: the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra.
UTIs occur when bacteria gets into the urethra and travels to the bladder and kidneys. If left untreated, this infection could cause permanent kidney damage, kidney failure or could lead to sepsis.
The elderly are more susceptible to UTIs because of the weakening of the immune system that happens with age, as well as the loss of bladder muscle strength, which can lead to urine being retained in the bladder.
It is also important to note that according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly four times as many women get UTIs as men. The common signs and symptoms of a UTI include:
- Low-grade fever
- Frequent urges to urinate
- Urine that looks cloudy
- Bloody urine
- Pressure in the lower pelvic area
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Frequently passing small amounts of urine
Although it may not seem obvious, a UTI can even trigger mental confusion, which may inaccurately be mistaken for the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
If your loved one has experienced a UTI or you want to reduce his or her risk, take note of the following tips and advice:
- Personal hygiene is very important. Make sure that your loved one maintains good overall cleanliness, including daily showers.
- Encourage your loved one to use the bathroom multiple times a day (every two to three hours), and to avoid cross-contaminating the urethra with fecal bacteria.
- Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day can help prevent a UTI.
Finally, be sure to monitor your loved one’s behavior. Confusion, sudden falls and incontinence can all be potential warning signs of a UTI.
Contact your loved one’s primary care physician to learn more about this infection.