Blog Home > Blog > Preventing Urinary Tract Infections: Signs, Causes, and Tips to Prevent UTIs in Older Adults

Urinary tract infections, (UTIs) are common. Nearly 60% of women and 12% of men contract at least one UTI in their lifetime according to the Urology Care Foundation. But that does not mean they are harmless. 

Especially in our older adult populations, a UTI comes with a higher risk of developing serious, and/or life-threatening complications. That’s why it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. Inaccurately diagnosing UTIs in older adults can lead to excessive antibiotic use or worsening pain and outcomes that could harm them longer-term. In this article, we’re going to talk about the symptoms related to a UTI and actionable steps you can take to prevent the older adult in your care from getting one. Let’s dive in.

Diagnosing a UTI: Symptoms to Look for 

Let’s talk about the symptomology your loved one may be experiencing that could be indicative of a UTI. These include:

  • A fever over 100°F
  • Cloudy, bloody, or smelly urine
  • Pain when urinating
  • Worsened urinary frequency or urgency
  • Tenderness in the pubic region
  • Night sweats
  • Pain or tenderness in the lower stomach, back, or ribs

(Source: Cleveland Clinic and VNS Health)

The problem with this list is that a lot of the listed symptoms are easy to tell on ourselves, but not on someone else. Some of the symptoms you may be more likely to notice in your loved one that also could indicate a UTI include:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Struggling to get dressed
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Anger or agitation
  • Rapid onset incontinence

If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms (from either list), it’s important to get them checked out by a doctor so they can run a bacterial culture to diagnose or rule out a UTI.

Preventing a UTI: Things You Can Do to Reduce the Risk

When caring for an older adult in your life, it’s important to understand what tasks and responsibilities will keep them safe from infection. Here are some examples of things you can do to reduce the risk of your loved one contracting a UTI and/or further complications:

  • Practice good genital hygiene
  • Ask their doctor about a hormonal vaginal cream
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Wear clean and fresh cotton underwear daily
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid any instance of “holding it” when they need to pee
  • Peeing after sex
  • Wipe from front to back
  • Avoid scented products touching sensitive areas
  • Avoid douches and powders
  • Shower instead of bathe, if possible

Additional Risk Factors for Urinary Tract Infections in Older Adults

Some people are simply more likely to contract a UTI than others. These additional risk factors include:

  • Those with a weak immune system
  • People with comorbid conditions
  • Those with a suppressed immune system, including patients currently under treatment for other illnesses or diseases
  • Those with an enlarged prostate
  • People who have frequent sexual intercourse
  • Those who use spermicide
  • Genetics (i.e., a predisposition for urinary tract infections)
  • Vaginal atrophy, which is more common and postmenopausal women
  • Or those who struggle to completely empty their bladder, whether caused by medications, prolapse, etc.

Closing Thoughts: Preventing UTIs in Older Adults

Urinary tract infections in older adults can be scary, which is why it’s important to get a good diagnosis. While a lot of the symptoms of a UTI are easier to detect on yourself than others, it’s important to seek a professional opinion when you notice any behavioral or cognitive changes, as these can also be indicators.

As a family caregiver, we want you to know that the California Caregiver Resource Centers are here to support you. We are a non-profit network of 11 Centers that support caregivers across the state of California. Every county in the state is covered.

Further Reading: Caring for the Caregiver: Navigating Mental Health Challenges

Caring for the Caregiver: Navigating Mental Health Challenges is an article dedicated to the well-documented difficulties the role of caregiver presents. 

Being a caregiver is a labor of love, but it’s not an easy path. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has uncovered some important insights into the mental health of caregivers, and it’s crucial to shed light on this subject. Click here to read the article.

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