Urinary Tract Infections.
Admit it, right now you’re getting all grossed out and embarrassed. It’s not a pleasant topic.
UTIs were something I’m sure I never thought about in my pre-caregiving era. When I started taking care of Grandma, it started coming up all the time. I quickly learned that UTIs are a common occurrence in older adults.
I became super defensive against UTIs.
But it is not a game, people.
UTIs are the devil. They make old ladies act crazy and talk about trips to the lake in the 1950s. They also make people fall.
Having learned that, in most cases, falls are not normal and usually an indicator of a physical problem, I would freak out when Grandma fell. My first question would be, “Does she have a UTI?” I even bought the test strips to have on hand when I was worried she might have one.
UTIs mimic the symptoms of dementia in older adults. If a person struggles with ongoing UTIs, it can be mistaken for this condition.
When a person actually has a cognitive impairment dementia, it’s hard enough dealing with confusion and disorientation. Sometimes UTIs exacerbate typical dementia symptoms. That’s how it is for us. When my grandma has a UTI she is EXTRA everything- extra confused, extra weak, extra unsteady.
Older adults are simply more susceptible to UTIs. As time goes on, muscles in your bladder and urinary tract get weaker. Leaks happen. If your loved one has incontinence, it’s especially important to be vigilant in the fight against UTIs. That’s because incontinence creates the perfect environment for infections to flourish.
Even though it’s super yucky and uncomfortable, it’s something we have to deal with. It’s critical to know what the signals are and put all precautions in place to prevent UTIs.
Symptoms of UTIs
|Typical Symptoms of UTIs||Lesser-Known UTI Symptoms in Seniors|
SETTING UP YOUR DEFENSE AGAINST UTIs
Make sure your LO drinks plenty of fluids.
If they are not a big water drinker, try to sneak it in with flavoring drops or packets). Offer them something to drink as often as you remember, and be sure and hydrate yourself – modeling the behavior you wish to see.
Get some D MANNOSE.
This stuff is the truth. D Mannose is a sugar that is found in many fruits and vegetables, including the infamous cranberry juice, a common household remedy for UTIs. According to the research, the sugars prevent E. Coli bacteria that passes through our urinary tract from latching on. (You can read more about it here: https://www.healthline.com/health/d-mannose-for-uti#research)
I bought it for Grandma after several people in the caregiving groups I lurk in on Facebook mentioned how it worked for them. Gma has been taking it since January and hasn’t had a single UTI since.
Make sure your LO changes their briefs or pads as soon as they get wet.
Those things are breeding grounds for infection. They never get changed as soon and as often as needed. I was mortified when I found out my grandma was wearing pads 2-3 days at a time (that was back in my freshman caregiving days). She would claim she hadn’t gotten them wet or she didn’t need to change them. I started buying big packs, sometimes two at a time, so she would never worry about running out.
Make sure your LO changes their unmentionables at least once a day.
My grandma and I went back and forth on this forever. To me, it was unheard of to wear your underwear more than one 24-hour period. I’ve noticed that older people like to wear the same clothes over and over for one reason or another. It’s a generational thing. So I bought my grandma literally 12 pairs of underwear. Not having enough will never be an excuse.
Try implementing a bathroom schedule to prevent accidents.
We try to encourage Grandma to get up out of her chair and remind her to go to the bathroom at least every two hours.
If your LO is up peeing all night, if they can get up and move around more during the day, it’s helpful in getting them on a schedule. When you lay down at night, all the water in your legs and extremities heads back to the center of your body, and you guessed it – if you didn’t eliminate all the fluid from your body, you will have to pee.
You can also try having your LO keep their feet/legs up during the day as well, to help fight against gravity.
Discourage and try to limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
It should be obvious that these make you need to pee more often. We switched out Grandma’s tea for decaf and that made a huge difference.
Final recommendation – mainly for people whose LOs have dementia or chronic pain
Don’t assume your LO is comfortably able to or remembers how to maintain their personal hygiene.
Women should always wipe from front to back (for women). It might sound basic, but it was a foreign concept to my grandma (maybe because she had two boys)… This may be a word of advice that comes easier from a medical professional, like a palliative care nurse. At some point, if your LO has dementia, they may forget that this is the way to do it… they may forget to wipe at all.
Sometimes, it may be hard for your LO to wipe and they feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. This is a sensitive subject, but it is important to start offering help with this part of toileting when you start having concerns.
In all seriousness…..
I never imaged becoming knowledgeable about urinary tract infections. If you are caring for a loved one, you need to stay on your toes and keep a watchful eye out to prevent them from making your caregiving life miserable!
Have you found remedies or solutions for an ongoing battle with UTIs? I’d love to hear what worked for you. Drop it in the comments below! 👇👇👇
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