By Caryn Tadema, Certified Concierge Care Advisor

Urinary Tract Infections, or UTI’s are the most common type of bacterial infection in older adults.  Seniors may experience more severe symptoms than younger adults do, including sudden changes in behavior such as mental confusion, agitation, and combative behavior.

If left untreated, UTI’s can cause serious problems in the elderly including kidney damage, sepsis, or other life-threatening infections.

I recently had a client with dementia who suddenly became aggressive.  This was out of character for him.  Had he been tested for a UTI and treated with antibiotics; the issue could have been easily resolved.  Instead, he was admitted to the Psychiatric ward at a local hospital and put on 4-point restraint.  This elevated his aggression and it became difficult for me to find a home for him.

After 4 weeks I was finally able to find a place for him at a memory care community.  Unfortunately, his untreated UTI had turned to sepsis and he passed away 5 days later.

Older adults with dementia are not always able to communicate common symptoms of a UTI such as painful urine, sudden urinary incontinence, or lower back pain.

If your loved one suddenly has difficulty performing common daily tasks such as getting dressed or feeding themselves or begin to act uncharacteristically, I urge you to have them tested for a UTI. A simple test called a urinalysis can confirm infection.  In some cases, the doctor will request a urine culture to identify the type of bacteria causing the infection to help determine the best antibiotic to treat it.

Though some bacteria in the urine, asymptomatic bacteriuria, often resolves on its own without treatment, it is better to be safe than sorry.