Preventing UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) In Seniors

preventing utis urinary tract infections in seniors

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are painful and can morph into more serious kidney infections if they aren’t caught and treated in time. However, in the senior population, UTIs are even more serious because they can be atypical in how they show up and can even cause dementia-like symptoms that lead to false diagnosis and unnecessary treatment plans.

Preventing UTIs through hydration, proper diet and close attention to how symptoms differ for older adults can make a big difference in the life of both seniors and their caregivers and families.

Preventing UTIs With Hydration, Hygiene And Easy Bathroom Access

Preventing a UTI is quite simple in most cases and requires just three simple steps:

Keep seniors hydrated with plenty of water and other fluids

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the presence of bacteria in the urine doesn’t necessarily indicate a severe UTI or the use of antibiotics. In fact, the presence of elevated bacteria levels, “…occurs in about 6 to 16 percent of women over age 65, 20 percent of women over age 80, and 25 to 50 percent of women living in nursing facilities.”

This last statistic is an important one. If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility, it’s easier for subtle UTI symptoms to be missed. Providing them with a companion or caregiver from a home care agency means they receive more personalized and attentive care.

Should a loved one test positive for elevated bacteria levels, without additional signs of a UTI (fever of 100.5 or more, worsening urinary frequency or urgency, pain with urination, tenderness in the lower abdomen above the pubic bone), speak to the doctor about increasing hydration for a bit and then retesting. When seniors are dehydrated, their bladder and urinary tract can’t flush bacteria out of the system. Drinking more water and fluids consistently for a few days – and developing healthy hydration habits – will help to support a healthy urinary tract.

Maintain healthy hygiene habits, particularly with toileting

Hygiene is so important for human health, yet it’s one of the first things to “slip” as we age, particularly if mobility and/or cognitive decline is an issue. If bodies aren’t regularly cleaned, clothes and bedding aren’t routinely laundered and changed, the urinary tract is inundated with higher levels of bacteria. Combined with a weakened immune system, dehydration and/or malnourishment and you have a recipe for a urinary tract infection.

If seniors are incontinent and relying on adult underwear and/or others to change and cleanse them, they have an even higher risk of developing a UTI. Proper toileting care is critical, particularly around the rectal area and urethra in women since improper wiping or cleansing will introduce bacteria from fecal matter into the urethra.

Proper toileting care for preventing UTIs includes:

  • Wiping from front to back, beginning at the urethra and moving back towards the anus.
  • Properly cleansing the perennial area with a mild solution designed specifically for that purpose.
  • Using a clean section of cloth (by folding it over in sections) for each wipe.
  • Checking adult diapers or briefs at least every 2-hours and never sitting for longer than necessary in soiled or dirty adult diapers for any length of time.
  • Wearing a fresh pair of underwear each day, or a fresh adult diaper at all times.

For many seniors, particularly those with cognitive or mobility issues, or for whom it’s difficult to get to the store for fresh adult diapers, assistance is a must when it comes to safe toileting and maintaining healthy hygiene habits on a daily basis.

Never make a senior wait if s/he has to go to the bathroom

The urge to go to the bathroom should be greeted with immediate and easy action to a bathroom facility or bedpan whenever possible. The longer senior women have to wait to go to the bathroom, the more likely they are to develop a UTI. Not only does it give bacteria more chance to increase in population, but it also creates bladder and urethral irritation that weakens the urinary tract. Having to wait to use a restroom also puts seniors at higher risk for sitting in soiled clothing or underwear, elevating their risk of infection.

Taking these basic precautions can go a long way towards preventing UTIs (urinary tract infections) in seniors, particularly senior women, and improving their health and well-being.

Let Us Help

Have a senior loved one who’s struggling to take care of him/herself, doing the laundry or getting to the store on a regular basis? Schedule a free, in-home consultation with HomeAide Home Care. We’ve provided a range of senior-friendly services and in-home caregiving for more than a decade.

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