What is a UTI?
The first step is to understand exactly what a UTI is and how it can be caused. Germs that find their way into the urethra and travel up into the bladder and kidneys cause infection.
Most commonly, UTIs are caused by poor hygiene or an overfull bladder that is not alleviated often enough, while those with diabetes, kidney problems or a weakened immune system are also highly susceptible to UTIs. Women who have experienced menopause are also more at risk of developing UTIs due to low levels of oestrogen needed to prevent the growth of bacteria in the urethra.
How UTIs affect those with dementia
For the younger generation that suffer from UTIs, the most common symptoms include the likes of: painful urination, lower abdominal pain, one-sided back pain and fever. However, for those with dementia, the symptoms may simply appear to be part of their pre-existing condition – such as increased confusion, agitation, withdrawal, hallucinations and even delirium.
As our immune systems respond to infection differently when we are older, it’s crucial for care givers to understand and be on the look-out for changes in behaviour of dementia patients – which may signal underlying infection. If an underlying UTI is not diagnosed and treated in a dementia patient, the infection could spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening. Further to this, UTIs can actually speed up the progression of dementia, making it all the more important for care givers to recognise and limit the risk of UTIs in their patients.
How care givers can prevent UTIs in dementia patients
- Keep an eye on fluid intake – encourage six to eight glasses of water a day
- Prompt the patient to use the bathroom approximately every two – three hours
- Ensure good hygiene is maintained with daily showers
The most important job of a care giver is to monitor behaviour in those with dementia – sudden changes in routine, mood, increased confusion and agitation should all be warning signs. Be sure to contact your client’s doctor as soon as you notice any obvious changes in behaviour and prevent UTIs!