Urinary tract infections can be uncomfortable for some, regardless of age and health.
UTIs are actually rather common for many elderly people, even those living in an aged care facility.
In fact, research by the RACGP found that 4 percent of the aged care facility population have recurrent urinary tract infections.
A UTI happens when germs get into the urethra and then travel to the bladder and kidneys.
When younger people get a urinary tract infection or UTI, they will experience distinct physical symptoms and can tell you when something is wrong.
As a family carer, you may wonder, “What are the warning signs when my loved one is experiencing urinary tract infections as an older adult?”
Changes to Your Urinary System As An Older Adult
As we get older, the number and size of filtering units in the kidneys decreases; which means our bodies cannot flush toxins as well as they used to.
This leads to frequent urination and many times, dehydration as well. As we age, the urethra, which is the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body, shortens and its lining becomes thinner.
The urethra is already fairly short and straight in women, which makes it easier for these germs and toxins to travel into the bladder.
Kidney Health Australia says that older women experience more UTIs after menopause and that the bladder also becomes thinner with age.
What about older men?
Symptoms of a UTI can appear because of an enlarged prostate which partially blocks the outflow of urine and causes it to pool inside of the bladder.
This will attract and allow bacteria to grow. Also, when an older man has to use a catheter to help drain the urine, UTIs are more likely to occur here as well.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection in Older Adults
A UTI can cause frequent urination and burning pain.
When people are younger, they will usually tell you or figure out that something is wrong.
This is not always the case with older adults, and you may not know that your loved one is experiencing any problems.
This is especially true when they have dementia and are not showing classic signs.
Older adults will often show other symptoms that you may not associate with a UTI such as; confusion, falls, a decreased appetite or a lack of voluntary control over their urination.
With older adults, there may be a physical need to urinate in small amounts more often, or with a greater sense of urgency.
Something else to look out for is cloudy or strong-smelling urine and for any signs of blood on a regular basis.
How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
There are some natural ways to combat UTIs; reduce these symptoms; and provide some relief.
This includes using cranberry juice, water, plain yoghurt and cinnamon. How do these items actually work?
- Cranberry juice – the active compounds in this juice work to fight against bacteria and reach the urinary tract within eight hours.
- Water – this helps dilute the urine, allowing bacteria to flush from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Plain yoghurt – this product contains “good” bacteria or probiotics that can help prevent UTIs by keeping “bad” bacteria from growing.
- Cinnamon – the surprising thing about this spice is that it can actually suppress the bacteria that causes most urinary tract infections to happen. A 2010 study, by the University of Connecticut, looked at trans-cinnamaldehyde (from cinnamon) as a possible antibacterial agent against hospital urinary catheter infections.
As we have shown you, UTIs are common for older women but, can also be a problem for older men as well.
It may be harder to determine their symptoms but, by using natural remedies in their diet and noticing changes in their behaviour, you can help reduce and catch these symptoms earlier in a more proactive way.
Also remember that if the genital area is kept clean and you always wipe after a bowel movement from front to back; this helps prevent bacteria from spreading.
If a problem persists, however, it is better to have a urine exam performed because treatment with antibiotics is usually effective.