UTIs in Elderly People
According to the Center for Disease Control, urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for 20 to 30 percent of infections in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. UTIs in elderly people result in uncomfortable urination and frequent burning sensations. If left untreated, UTIs cause extreme pain and suffering and can even be fatal for the elderly. While nursing home staff members have an obligation to monitor and care for elderly patients, neglect or abuse may result in damaging UTIs that are easily preventable and treatable.
Symptoms of UTIs
UTI symptoms in elderly patients vary based on medical situations and resident needs. However, common signs and symptoms in the elderly that point towards the possibility of a UTI include:
- Persistent and strong urge to urinate
- Strong burning sensation while urinating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tenderness or heaviness in the stomach
- Cloudy and odorous urine
- Frequent but short urination
- Rectal pain or discomfort in men
- Pelvic pain or discomfort in women
- Kidney pain
- Bacteria or blood in the urine
- Weakened immune system
Nursing home residents complaining of any of these signs or suffering without complaint require proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment by trained staff before symptoms worsen.
UTI Causes and Diagnosis
Common causes of UTIs in nursing home residents include unchanged clothing, unchanged bed sheets, and unchanged bedpans. Urinary tract infections may also occur naturally, although improper hygiene and improper catheter insertion increase the risk of contracting a UTI.
The process of diagnosing a UTI typically includes analysis of a urine sample, growing bacteria in a lab to determine which specific bacteria is causing the infection, and using an ultrasound, CAT scan, or MRI to create images of the urinary tract. A physician may also use a scope to see inside the bladder and perform a cystoscopy to discern the cause of frequent UTIs.
The most common treatment for a UTI includes antibiotics. The type of antibiotic as well as the length of antibiotic treatment varies based on the health condition of the resident, and which type of bacteria the doctor finds in the urine sample. Nursing home staff should also instigate lifestyle changes for residents with UTIs, such as drinking plenty of water, avoiding beverages that irritate the bladder, and using a warm heating pad to reduce pressure and discomfort.
Elderly people who require a catheter, have diabetes, or have kidney stones are at a greater risk for contracting a UTI. Steps for preventing urinary tract infections in nursing home residents include:
- Increased water intake
- Monitoring urine characteristics
- Increased berry juice intake
- Taking showers instead of baths
- Properly inserting catheters
- Minimizing the use of urinary catheters
- Careful catheter care and maintenance
- Watching for changes in behavior
Preventative measures for reducing the risk of UTIs are the responsibility of nursing home staff. Failure to perform such tasks increases the risk of painful UTIs in residents, and places the nursing home at fault for negligence or abuse if loved ones seek legal action.