Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are some of the most common infectious diseases to hit seniors. whether they are living at home or in a rehabilitation facility. UTI can come on very suddenly with burning, pain, frequency and urgency. Sometimes, however, UTI can go unnoticed especially in seniors who are incontinent. The pain of UTI can also go unnoticed if seniors are taking pain killers for other medical problems that will mask the pain of UTI. Also, seniors suffering from dementia, have difficulty in understanding or communicating their feelings and sometimes the only sign that they have UTI are behavior changes like confusion. However, confusion can be a sign of other problems, so there is a good chance for a misdiagnosis. Studies show 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 may go untreated. 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.
There are several reasons why UTI is so prevalent among seniors:
- Older women often suffer from uterine prolapse and older men often suffer from an enlarged prostate that contribute to urinary tract problems.
- Many seniors suffer from chronic constipation which can put undue 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.
- Seniors with diabetes are also more prone to UTI.
The best solutions are finding ways to prevent getting UTI
Several studies show that cranberries can help prevent the onset of UTI. Cranberries make the urine more acidic which helps prevent bacteria from getting a foothold. Bacterial strains like E coli actually make the urine more alkaline, as they grow best in this kind of environment. However, 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 including Warfarin, Allegra, most statins, blood pressure lowering meds, calcium channel blockers, Cipro, Erythromycin, Oxycodone, Cyclosporine and more.
Cranberry juice has been reported to have dangerous interactions with Warfarin which can lead to increased bleeding or formation of clots.
Seniors who are taking a lot of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs should consult their doctors about whether it is safe for them to take cranberries or cranberry juice.
There is scientific evidence to show that drinking more fluids, especially pure water, can help to prevent UTI. It is very important to avoid getting dehydrated. Seniors should be encouraged to drink more fluids and offered ice to suck on if they do not want to drink.
Shower with a long hand-held flexible shower hose to insure adequate cleaning.
Since urinary tract infections are so common among seniors and in many cases difficult to diagnose, steps should be taken to prevent getting them.