Your mom seems more confused than usual, and she’s uncharacteristically short-tempered. Before you start worrying about the onset of dementia, consider whether something far less chronic – a urinary tract infection – could be to blame.
Anyone, of any age, can get a UTI, but age itself is a risk factor, as is being a woman. Diabetics and urinary catheter users also are at an increased risk.
As people age, our immune systems become weakened, as do the muscles that control the bladder. The inability to fully empty the bladder allows bacteria to remain in the bladder and multiply.
Younger people experience pain and burning as a first sign of an infection, but in older people, the first and only visible symptom often is mental confusion.
The best way to avoid this confusion, of course, is to avoid an infection.
The Mayo Clinic offers these tips to help prevent UTIs.
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking water helps dilute urine and ensures frequent urination, allowing bacteria to be flushed from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Wipe from front to back. Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the urethra.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products such as deodorant sprays, douches and powders.
If a UTI is suspected, diagnosis and treatment are critical. Left untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections and even permanent organ damage. UTIs are also a leading cause of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.
The good news is, diagnosis and treatment are both rather simple. A quick urine test identifies the presence of bacteria, and oral antibiotics are the typical course of treatment. Caught early, a senior with a UTI can be feeling and acting like herself again in just a day or two.