Know the Symptoms: 5 Signs of UTIs in Older Adults

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are fairly common occurrences. Women are more likely to get UTIs than men, however they can affect all people regardless of age or sex. If you are caring for an older loved one, knowing if or when they have an UTI can be difficult. UTI symptoms can mimic other infections and conditions, making it challenging for you to know how to help ease their pain.

Moreover, an older adult with a UTI may experience confusion and disorientation. These are two symptoms that younger patients generally do not experience. Older adults may also have a harder time explaining to you how they are feeling and what is troubling them. Due to this, it’s important to know the signs of UTIs in older adults. Keep reading to discover fourUTI symptoms for this population so you can be prepared if or when your loved one is afflicted.

1. Burning Sensation

This symptom is commonly experienced by anyone with a UTI, leading to a sudden urgency to continuously urinate. UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. Bacteria may be caused by sexual activity or incorrectly cleaning the area after going to the bathroom. Older adults using catheters can also be more prone to UTIs. And adults in nursing homes or facilitated care residences may also be exposed more to different bacteria in bathing areas.

If your loved one is experiencing burning, you may first notice that they keep asking or going into the bathroom. It’s not that they actually need to urinate, but that their body is urging them to go due to the bacterial infection. Fortunately, UTI treatment is readily available in the form of prescription antibiotics.

2. Abnormal Pain

Another frequent symptom is pain around the pelvic, abdominal, and low back areas. This pain is triggered by discomfort around the bladder area. Pain may also be experienced as cramping. This is due to the bacteria in the urinary tract, triggering inflammation in the lining.

Any time an older adult expresses that they are in pain, you want to get to the bottom of it. Pain in the stomach region may be a UTI. Again, they may have difficulty explaining how they are feeling, so try to ask them specific questions. Questions may include: “Can you point to where it hurts?” or “How intense is the pain?” Asking these types of questions can help you get them diagnosed and treated.

3. Chills or Fever

Due to lower levels of fat in their skin, older adults tend to get colder easier. However, if your loved one is asking to be wrapped up in a warm blanket, you may want to take their temperature. Chills and a fever are two less-known signs of UTIs. The body is signaling to tell you that something is wrong, prompting a fever.

A fever may be a sign of an infection in the ureters or kidney area. If left untreated, this kind of UTI can actually damage the kidney, eventually spreading and infecting the bloodstream. If your loved one has a fever, let their healthcare provider know. Address any other unusual symptoms so they can help identify what may be going on. Monitor the fever closely, especially if a diagnosis of any kind can’t be made immediately. 

4. Decreased Appetite and Mobility

For older adults who aren’t able to communicate with you effectively, you may notice behavioral changes if they have a UTI. Being in pain can lead to a loss of appetite. Eating, in general, can be harder for this generation. However, if they are suddenly skipping meals or not expressing any desire to eat, they may very well likely have abdominal pain.

Along with this, you may also notice they aren’t able to move as easily. Besides getting up to go to the bathroom, they may just be sitting or resting throughout the day. This isn’t a cause for concern if this is routine for them. However if they are normally up and about, you may want to start asking them specific questions. Doing so can help you get to the bottom of their new behavioral adaptations.

5. Agitation

When humans are in pain, their emotions usually will respond. Think about when you were younger and fell down and scraped your knee. You probably cried. In a similar way, older adults express discomfort and distress through their emotions. If they’re uncomfortable because of a UTI they may not be as happy to see company or may say hurtful words.

If they’re experiencing confusion as well, the severity of this symptom can be multiplied. For seniors with dementia, they may not be able to communicate how they feel about a particular ailment. However, agitation is a sign that indicates their discomfort. Seeking medical treatment typically can result in a more positive outlook and better mood.

Takeaways

While nobody ever wants to experience a UTI, they are common, everyday infections. Be on the lookout for these symptoms if your loved one ever expresses feelings of discomfort or pain. Additionally, keep in mind that UTIs can be prevented through a variety of lifestyle adjustments or changes. For instance, avoid using perfumed bath products, particularly around the genital region.

It’s also beneficial to stay well hydrated throughout the day and urinate fully whenever the urge presents itself. Wearing loose fitting underwear and clothing made from cotton can also let this area of the body breathe easier. Following these few tips can help keep UTIs at bay.