Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are Common in Seniors

UTI Common to Senior Men and Women (NIA)

The most common infection acquired by seniors is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Escherichia coli (E coli) is the most common bacteria that causes UTI in seniors older than 65 years. UTI can be a mild self limiting illness to severe sepsis (blood poisoning), with a mortality rate of 20-40%. The risk of sepsis and death increases with age, and UTI is more likely to be severe in men, especially  men over age 85. Urinary tract infections can strike seniors living at home and also those in hospitals or in a residential short or long-term care rehab and nursing facility.

Many UTIs go Unnoticed by Seniors and their Caregivers

A UTI can come on very suddenly without any real warning. Symptoms are burning, frequency, urgency and painful urination. These can generally be easily treated if they get properly diagnosed. The problem is that many UTIs go unnoticed by seniors and their caregivers. Most urinary tract infections are painful. However, seniors who are taking pain killing drugs may not notice the pain and burning of a UTI. A UTI can also go unnoticed in seniors who are incontinent or who are suffering from dementia. A senior with dementia may only show more signs of confusion, agitation and behavior problems, but this may not be recognized as a urinary tract infection.

Research Shows that about 40% of Hospitalized Patients are Misdiagnosed

Research shows that 40% of hospitalized patients are misdiagnosed concerning UTI. Thus, some patients get treated unnecessarily with antibiotics, as they do not really have UTI and others who have true UTI and need antibiotics may go untreated.

Untreated UTI can Spread to the Kidneys

Untreated UTI can spread to the kidneys producing a much more serious infection that if untreated, can lead to sepsis, toxic shock and a life-threatening situation. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) signs of a kidney infection are:

  • Chills and trembling
  • Pain in the back, groin or side
  • Very bad pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Night sweats
  • Flushed warm red skin
  • Feeling ill and very tired
  • Fever above 101oF
  • Mental changes or confusion

Reasons Urinary Tract Infections are so Common among Seniors

Urinary tract infection are so common among the senior population because:

  • Older women often suffer from weak pelvic floor muscles and uterine prolapse and this can cause urinary problems. Older men often suffer from an enlarged prostate that contribute to urinary tract problems.
  • Many seniors suffer from chronic constipation, which can put excessive pressure on the bladder.
  • Poor hygiene, especially among seniors who are incontinent, put many seniors at risk for UTI.
  • Seniors who have indwelling catheters are at the highest risk for UTI.
  • Neurological conditions such as cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease are associated with urinary problems and an inability to completely empty the bladder.
  • Seniors with diabetes are also more prone to UTI.
  • Many seniors are on prescription drugs and some kinds of medicines can cause bladder problems like leaking.

Preventing UTIs

Here are some tips provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and other sources.

Drink Cranberry Juice

Research shows that cranberries, the fruit that is popular at Thanksgiving, can help prevent the onset of UTI. Cranberries make the urine more acidic, which helps prevent bacteria from growing. Bacterial strains like E coli actually make the urine more alkaline, as they grow best in this kind of environment.

Caution: Cranberries can Interact in a Bad Way with Certain Prescription Drugs

Cranberries, like grapefruit, grapes, Seville oranges, limes, pomegranates, pomelos, dark cherries and licorice have the cytochrome p450 enzyme and can have dangerous interactions with at least 85 prescription drugs. The interaction can keep the prescription drug from breaking down and the drug can build up to dangerous levels in the body. Check with your doctor before taking cranberry juice if you are taking prescription drugs,  especially Warfarin (Coumadin), to make sure it is safe to drink cranberry juice.

Drink more Water and other Fluids

Studies show that drinking more water and other fluids can help prevent UTI. It is crucial to avoid getting dehydrated. Seniors should be encouraged to drink more fluids. If they do not want to drink, they should be offered ice to suck on.

Shower with Hand Held Shower Hose for Adequate Cleaning

Shower with a long hand-held flexible shower hose to insure adequate cleaning.

Quit Smoking

People who smoke have more bladder problems and a higher risk for bladder cancer.

Cut down or Stop Drinking Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make many bladder problems worse.

Reduce Caffeine

Caffeine that is found in coffee, tea and chocolate can irritate the bladder.

Kegel Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises

Kegel pelvic floor muscle exercises can strengthen pelvic floor muscles and this can help prevent urine from leaking.

Use the Bathroom Often and do not Hold Urine in the Bladder.

Urine held in the bladder is more prone to infections. Take time to completely empty your bladder.

Wear breathable Cotton Underwear

Nylon and tight fitting pants can trap moisture and provide an environment that encourages the growth of bacteria.

Long-term Care at the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey

If your loved one is in need of long-term care, choose a rehab and skilled nursing care facility that has a large number of staff per resident such as the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey. That way your loved one will be under more watchful eyes 24 hours a day. Royal Suites is a very beautiful and modern 5-star facility surrounded by woods and landscaped gardens. The rooms are nicely furnished with a private bathroom in each room. The facility is kept spotlessly clean.


It certainly pays to try to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI).


Leave a Comment