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Samantha’s 75-year-old mother suffers from chronic stress and anxiety. But of late, she started getting confused. Samantha assumed that the symptoms are due to her mother’s underlying mental health condition. But the reason turned out to be completely different when one day her mother complained of painful urination, which was quickly followed by a low-grade fever. After examination, the doctor concluded that her mother’s mental health condition was not due to stress. It was because she was suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Memory lapses are common as we age. We feel its usual to forget the names of people we often meet. But not all confusions are the signs of aging. Sometimes confusion, anxiety and memory loss can occur due to underlying infections – like UTIs – which need prompt care and attention. 

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. While UTIs are more common in women, they affect men too. The infection exhibits itself differently in older and younger adults. In fact, in seniors, it comes with completely different signs and self-detection often gets very puzzling. That’s why, if someone in your family is showing sudden changes in behavior, it is important to get them thoroughly checked by a physician. They could be suffering from an undiagnosed UTI. 

This article discusses the common warning signs of UTI in seniors that you should never ignore. 

What is a UTI?

As mentioned above, UTI is an infection of the urinary tract – the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. It is mostly caused by bacteria that make its way to the urinary tract, multiply there, and cause infection. 

Symptoms of UTI in Seniors

The key symptoms of a UTI include: 

  • Frequent urination 
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating 
  • Unusual color or odor in urine 
  • Pain in the abdomen or lower back
  • Blood in urine 
  • A constant feeling of full bladder 

While these are the common signs of a UTI, seniors may show completely different symptoms. In fact, the typical symptoms of UTI, like burning sensation and frequent urination, are often missing in seniors. Even if they appear, they appear late or are too subtle to get noticed. 

Instead, seniors experiencing UTI suffer from: 

  • Confusion
  • Agitation 
  • Memory loss 
  • Trouble while concentrating 
  • Fatigue and lethargy 
  • Frequent falls
  • Decreased appetite 

Since cognitive issues are the indicative signs of aging, UTIs often go undiagnosed in seniors – something which can lead to serious health issues. So, if you notice any of the above mentioned signs in your loved ones, make sure to get in touch with your physician for expert consultation and advice.  

Are Seniors More Vulnerable to UTIs?

Urinary tract infections are common and painful nuisance affecting people at every stage of life. Seniors with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, incontinence, catheter usage, immobility or kidney stones are more prone to UTIs than others. Women who have reached their menopause are also vulnerable to UTI infections. 

Tips to Prevent UTIs in Seniors

Since seniors are at increased risk for contracting a UTI, they must practice healthy habits to cut down their chances of contracting the disease. They can do this by: 

  • Staying hydrated. Water helps to flush bacteria from the urethra. 
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying their genital area after every washroom trip. For this, clean your genitals by wiping from front to back, moving any bacteria away from the urethral opening. 
  • Changing incontinence briefs frequently. 
  • Avoiding bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol.
  • Urinating as soon as the urge hits. 

The Final Takeaway

Urinary tract infection is a serious health condition, which if left untreated can lead to severe kidney infection. In fact, the infection can even spread to the bloodstream and lead to sepsis, which can be life-threatening.  

Therefore, UTIs in seniors should be detected and treated promptly with antibiotics. Do not conclude their cognitive decline to aging or dementia. Instead, if you are witnessing sudden mental health issues with your loved ones, make sure to get in touch with your healthcare physician for a complete senior health check. Timely testing and treatment can help you protect their mental health and overall well-being.