Urinary tract infections (UTIs) aren’t just a nuisance in the senior population—they can cause serious health problems. A UTI occurs when bacteria in the urethra, bladder, or kidneys multiply in the urine. This bacteria starts on the outside and moves up into the bladder and if not caught in time, can then crawl right up into the kidneys. Yep, it’s all connected.
Left untreated, a UTI can lead to kidney infections, which could permanently damage these vital organs and even lead to kidney failure. Why are they important? Kidneys filter the blood. Think of no filtering system. Pretty soon, there’s nothing but sludge. The blood gets dirty and you have bacteria in the blood called sepsis.
UTIs are also a leading cause of sepsis, an extreme and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. They must be treated promptly
Why Are Urinary Tract Infections Common in Older Adults?
Seniors are more vulnerable for many reasons, including their overall susceptibility to infections due to too many antibiotics but there are more common-sense reasons why older folks get them.
As the senior age, their skin falls, sags, wrinkles, and just doesn’t keep nice and tight like it did in their 20’s. Well, the skin has bacteria on it. It also has fungus and viruses on it. After all, we do not live in a sterile environment.
Now let’s say the older woman has these flaps. She wears a pull-up. She wipes but it is hard to get “up there” due to the skin and weight of the area. Also, she leaks and the wetness is on the pull-up and now the bacteria are too. They are rubbed off the skin by the flaps, pull-ups or panties. Either she sits all day or exercises regularly, that bacteria will find its way to the nice warm “pee-hole” and voila!…the climbing begins.
We can wash and wash and wash but we want bacteria on the skin for it protects us again other nasties, like keeping away yeast or fungus. So what to do?
- Urinate frequently as this pushes the bacteria back out of the bladder.
- Keep as dry as possible.
- Discuss the alternatives to pull-ups with a urologist who treats only women or only men. They know best.
The following conditions make older individuals more susceptible to UTIs and here’s why…
- Diabetes – if uncontrolled, it has sugar in it and bacteria LOVE sugar! Control your diabetes.
- Urine retention – keeps the urine in the bladder and bacteria will sit in there and multiply. Make sure to empty completely.
- Use of a urinary catheter – these things are full of bacteria no matter how much they are cleaned. They extend outside the body where clothes, sheets, and everything else is not sterilized. Find alternatives.
- Urinary incontinence – the leaking on the skin and then the skin is wet with urine or doesn’t wipe well if there are skin folds. Ask the urologist about exercising the muscles.
- Enlarged prostate – holds the urine in and again, doesn’t push the bacteria out. You might see dribbling. Ask the doctor.
- Immobility – for those who lie in bed or sit in a chair and do not urinate frequently and completely. Changing frequently both clothes and positions.
- Not drinking enough water – bacteria not getting flushed out. Drink more water.
- The treatment did not completely kill all the bacteria. Always give a urine sample after treatment to see that the infection has cleared.
- Bowel incontinence or diarrhea – the rectum and pee hole are not that far apart. Not wiping well means the bacteria move towards the front and will find the pee hole and climb. This is extremely common for women who do not wipe the proper way (front to back ALWAYS!) Keepthe “pee-hole” clean!
If you suspect Urinary Incontinence is the culprit causing these urinary tract infections, then get this FREE guide to fill out and hand to the doctor. He or she will start working with you immediately on the cause.