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The Problems Elderly Experience with Urinary Tract Infections and How to Prevent Them

By April 10, 2019Medical

Urinary tract infections are common in elderly people, but they may not exhibit the same symptoms you’d expect from when you had one at a younger age. Because your immune system changes over time, you may not even feel pain or discomfort. This is a real concern for patients who are bedridden or struggling with other medical conditions. You may need additional assistance in taking care of your elderly family member, which could mean adult day care or an assisted living facility. If the patient is an EEOICPA and RECA beneficiary, they may qualify for free home healthcare services as well.

Common Warning Signs with a Urinary Tract Infection

With the elderly, one of the most common signs of a urinary tract infection is a change in behavior. Other warning signs can include urinary incontinence, the inability to do tasks he or she could the day before, and confusion. Any time there is a sudden change like that, it could be a red flag that something else is going on.

In general, warning signs of a urinary tract infection can include feeling overly tired, pain when urinating, blood in the urine, and a general feeling of discomfort. For a man, he may get a sensation of fullness in the rectum along with back and side pain. This is an indication that the infection has reached all the way up to the kidneys. If an elderly person also has a fever, it can be an emergency and should not be taken lightly as it’s an indication that the infection is severe.

Causes of a Urinary Tract Infection

To rid the body of urine, the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra have to work together. The kidneys are in charge of removing extra liquid and waste from the blood, which is done in the form of urine, while the ureters carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and then the bladder will store the urine until it’s ready to be emptied through the urethra.

When bacteria start to cling to the urethra opening and multiply, it can create an infection. This is more common in women because a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s and that gives bacteria a quicker route into the body.

Diagnosing and Treating a Urinary Tract Infection

If it’s suspected that an elderly person has a urinary tract infection, a simple urinalysis can confirm it. For someone in good health, the use of antibiotics is typically the first course of treatment, which can often help the infection clear up in only a few days. The more severe the infection and the older the patient, the longer it takes. It can take weeks, and even involve hospitalization in some cases. Doctors may even decide to take a culture of the bacteria to figure out the exact antibiotic that is best for the infection. This is because older people, especially those in nursing homes, are typically resistant to the preferred drugs for treating a urinary tract infection.

If someone has a UTI, they need to up their fluid intake to help flush the bacteria from the body. In general, proper fluid consumption can help prevent infections in the first place since it makes it harder for bacteria to survive and multiply.

Preventing a Urinary Tract Infection

Unfortunately, the risk of having another UTI increases with each one you’ve had previously. This is why it’s important to take precautionary measures to prevent them in the first place.

Water intake is an important way to help prevent a UTI. Some people drink less when they are stressed because they don’t want to have to use the bathroom too much. This can be worse for your urinary tract as bacteria has a greater chance of building up inside. You should always urinate as soon as you feel the need to, wipe from front to back, and take showers instead of baths. If you are sexually active, it’s important to empty the bladder before and after intercourse, and women should also avoid using products that could irritate the urethra, like douche or feminine deodorant spray.

The elderly should regularly change their underwear and opt to wear loose, breathable cotton that is easy to clean. You may also need to consider setting up urination schedule and setting alarms to remind the elderly patient to urinate regularly.

Getting Help for Elderly Loved Ones

Sometimes you need additional assistance in taking care of your elderly family members. This may include having a part-time caregiver, adult day care, or placing him or her in a nursing home. For EEOICPA and RECA beneficiaries, your family member may qualify for free home healthcare services or an energy workers compensation program. Contact United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care to find out more.