Your Elder is Anxious and Upset. A UTI Might Be to Blame

As I emphasize daily, when an elder is agitated, the first thing to do is look for practical reasons.

Very often, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is to blame when an elder is upset. A UTI results when bacteria in the kidney, bladder, or urethra multiplies until it shows up in the urine. Left untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections. UTIs are also a leading cause of sepsis, an extreme and potentially life-threatening response to infection.

Elders are more susceptible to UTIs for many reasons, the most obvious being a weakened immune system.

The most common symptoms of a UTI are urine that appears cloudy or dark, blood in the urine, frequent urge to urinate, pain when urinating, lethargy, abdominal pain, and fever.

Sometimes, elders don’t exhibit these symptoms because their immune systems are too weak to react to the infection. Elders with cognitive issues might not be able to tell their caregivers that they’re in discomfort.

If an elder suddenly seems delirious, confused, or agitated, this can be a sign of an infection such as a UTI.

Doctors prescribe a urine test to diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI). White blood cells (WBCs) in the urine and bacteria are commonly found with infection.

However, that is dependent on getting a “clean catch.” That means cleaning off well with soap and water or prep cloths before collecting the urine. When the cleaning has been haphazard, it’s common for results to be contaminated with bacteria on the skin.

Ask your doctor for a copy of the test result. White blood cell counts between 10 and 20 are common. If it’s less than 15, it’s probably not an infection.

It’s important to treat UTIs as soon as possible, but also essential to avoid unnecessarily using antibiotics for a borderline positive. Using antibiotics too much can lead to drug-resistant bacteria and even more severe problems.

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