Many people, especially women, experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) over the course of their lives. While it’s never a pleasant experience, it can present special problems for a person with dementia. Being prepared for such an occurrence can be helpful.
What is a UTI?
The urinary tract is composed of the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, and the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. When bacteria gets into the urethra, it may travel up through the rest of the urinary tract, potentially creating an infection anywhere along the way. When this occurs, there often is some pain in the area, especially when urinating.
UTIs and Dementia
As mentioned, pain often accompanies a UTI. However, the pain may be less severe over time due to changes in the immune system and may not really register with some people.
More problematic is that often people with dementia respond to UTIs with behavioral changes. They may become agitated, confused, or withdrawn. This can be an issue in and of itself, but it can also be dangerous.
Most UTIs are diagnosed early and are easily treated with antibiotics. However, if the UTI goes undiagnosed for too long, it has the potential to cause kidney damage or blood poisoning.
So if a person with dementia responds to a UTI with behavioral changes rather than with an expression of pain in the area, it may not immediately be apparent to a caregiver that a UTI is to blame.
It can be difficult to determine whether a change of behavior is being caused by a UTI. It may be helpful to bring the matter to the attention of a physician in order to get a professional opinion. Testing for a UTI is relatively simple.
Preventing a UTI is also an appropriate strategy. Prevention tips include making sure the loved one drinks plenty of water every day, making sure he or she urinates every two-to-three hours, and maintaining proper hygiene.