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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection for seniors.
As we age, our ability to fight infection decreases. We are more prone to dehydration, bladder leakage, and declining self care/hygiene. These factors leave us susceptible to bacteria in our urinary tract developing into a urinary infection. A urinary tract infection is the most common bacterial infection for older adults (Consult QD, Cleveland Clinic).
An untreated urinary tract infection can lead to severe illness.
A urinary infection that is untreated can lead to significant illness. Especially in the elderly population, it can lead to infection in the blood stream (sepsis), and even death. Increased severity of infection increases with age, and tends to be more severe in elderly men (BMJ, 2019). Using the wrong antibiotics, or starting them late may contribute to the infection worsening. It is imperative if a patient has symptoms of UTI, or a history of UTI, to assess and refer in a timely manner.
A large percentage of the antibiotics prescribed for urinary tract infections may be unnecessary.
On the flip side, many people and are prescribed unnecessary medication for UTI. It is common for certain people to regularly test positive for bacteria in their urine, but it is becoming more clear that they may not always need antibiotics. Sometimes increasing water intake can resolve the urinary symptoms. Some people tend to have a baseline of bacteria in their urine, and that bacteria is not the root of their symptoms. Over medicating with unnecessary or incorrect antibiotics is known to leave people susceptible to other infections, and allows that baseline bacteria to become stronger (Consult QD, Cleveland Clinic). If that person has symptoms of illness, it is imperative to be thorough in assessment and not treat the incorrect issue. It is also important to know the type of bacteria and use the correct antibiotics.
Urinary Incontinence/weakness can increase your risk of urinary tract infection.
Functional incontinence is when people with normal bladder control have a physical difficulty preventing them from getting to the bathroom on time (pain, stiffness, moving slowly).
Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks from short term force on the bladder, and the muscles are too weak to contain it (ie sneezing, lifting, coughing).
Urge incontinence happens when people have a sudden need to urinate and cannot hold the urine long enough to get to the bathroom (after a stroke, or sometimes if you have a diagnosis of Diabetes, Alzheimers, or Multiple Sclerosis).
Muscle weakness, unhealthy sensory issues, medications and/or medical issues can all contribute to urinary leakage and infection. Talking through your specific situation with your physician is important!
Check out these 10 tips to decrease urinary tract infection risk:
1 Exercise: walking on a regular basis, and performing daily Kegel exercises (SEE THIS LINK FOR DETAILS) (MedlinePlus, 2019), work the actual muscles that you use to control urination. Improving the strength of these muscles may help you better hold urine in your bladder, and to release it more efficiently.
2 Timed voiding: plan ahead and urinate on a set schedule, for example: every 60 minutes, 90 minutes etc. Slowly increase the gap over time. Train yourself to NOT wait until the last minute to go. (Clinicians, make sure to take breaks and care for your urinary health as well!)
3 Hydration: minimize alcohol, and caffeine (coffee, tea, soda). Hydrate with water through out the day, but decrease your drinking intake before bedtime.
Check out this water bottle with measurements to help you achieve your hydration goals: (affiliate link)
4 Plan ahead: set up your living area so that you have a clear path to the bathroom. Keep the bathroom open to provide safe access to the toilet. Keep a night light on when it is dark.
5 Be aware: know the typical symptoms of UTI. Low back pain, confusion, burning with urination, fever over 100.5 F, increased need to urinate, dark colored urine.
6 Practise good hygiene with bathroom use.
Check out this link to see a toilet paper stand to help you keep a bin of wipes close by. (affiliate link)
7 Don’t neglect regular showering (as people age it may become more difficult).
8 Eat a healthy diet to keep your immune system strong.
9 Be aware of your medications and their side effects. Some diuretics, alpha blockers, and antidepressants may contribute to urinary issues.
10 Stay on top of your medical diagnoses as well. Know what and how your health issues may put you at risk regarding urinary health. Know what your “baseline” status is, and connect quickly with your health care team about new or concerning symptoms!.
If you want to help educate your patients for improved outcomes, check out my PREMIUM RESOURCES annual pass with access to download over 50 printable handouts, including a helpful patient handout for UTI education and prevention! Handouts can also be purchased individually.
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I would love to hear what you think! What other tips do you have, or exercises do you do to prevent urinary tract infections? Subscribe to my blog for senior health care information and tips, and a FREEBIE packet of health care organization printables!