The last few times my 89 year old grandmother has gone to the hospital she didn’t fall, she didn’t have the flu, and she hadn’t injured herself in any way. She had a urinary tract infection, a UTI. Many people don’t know that UTIs in elderly patients present differently than younger people. When the care facility called and said she was behaving funny and had a backache, and asked if they could call an ambulance, not one person in the family panicked. We all said, “I bet it’s a UTI.” Here’s what you need to know to keep your elder loved one healthy, and your anxiety levels low.

For most people a UTI is no big deal. You know what to look for, you go to the doctor, go in a cup, take some antibiotics, and feel better the next day. An average younger person won’t call an ambulance in a situation like this.

Standard UTI symptoms:

  • Urge to urinate
  • Pink / Red in urine
  • Burning while urinating
  • Strong smelling Urine
  • Not urinating normal amounts
  • Pelvic pain
  • Cloudy urine
For most people a UTI is no big deal. For an elderly person, it could be scary.

However, for an elderly person, the symptoms can be different. Not to mention the fact that your loved one may have dementia or mobility issues affecting their ability to communicate or take care of their own hygiene. My grandma is a sweet lady who sips coffee most of the day, so when she starts acting agitated, we know something’s up.

Elderly UTI symptoms:

  • Incontinence
  • Falling more often
  • Aggression or Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased appetite
Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided if a person has frequent UTIs.

Catching a UTI early on is important as a lingering infection can spread, causing more issues for your loved one. And for someone who has recurring infections practicing some UTI prevention could be helpful as well. If your loved one is in someone else’s care, and prone to UTIs, let the caretaker know so that extra attention can be paid. Grandma’s facility knew right away that her behavior wasn’t normal, and they responded immediately.

Preventing a UTI:

  • Drink more water
  • Keep the area clean
  • Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol
  • Don’t hold it
  • Change undergarments often

Sometimes there are scarier things occurring with our elderly loved ones such as stroke, a more serious infection, head injuries from falls you were unaware of, or dementia. But often, when they are otherwise fairly health, a UTI can be blamed. Being aware of the other symptoms and your loved one’s habits, can help you make the right call when it comes to seeking medical care.

“For an elderly person, the symptoms of a UTI can be different – and scary.”

Saturday night Grandma and I chatted with the nice nurses, got the results of the tests, and headed home in the early morning hours armed with a prescription and a new pair of grippy socks. As I dropped her off in her room I reminded her to drink more water, and walked back to my car thankful it had been a relatively mild evening.

As we get older, things that were once not even a blip on our radar can all the sudden become something very troublesome in our lives. Things that were easily taken care of, now require an entire care team. Make sure your retirement and investments are protected in retirement, get a free quote for long term care insurance today, and gain peace of mind knowing you’re protected.