June 16th, 2019

Aging with Grace…

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I recently heard from a reader dealing with a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in a loved one he cares for. Since this is a common infection for elderly persons especially those with Alzheimer’s or another form of Dementia, this week’s column will answer these questions and provide some addition tips and information.

Dear Grace,
I’m the main caregiver for my wife Dottie who has Alzheimer’s and recently had a urinary tract infection. Before we went to her doctor’s appointment, I had no clue what was going on with her. Do you have any hints or suggestions to help me identify this and/or prevent it from happening again?

Dear Tom,
It can be difficult to recognize a UTI in someone with a dementia related illness due to the fact that they may be unable to communicate what is happening or how they’re feeling. One hint that something is going on is a sudden change in normal behavior such as increased agitation, anger or aggression. Other symptoms are: urine may be cloudy or have a foul odor, fever, increased falls, more confusion and disorientation. At the end of this column is more information on the prevention of UTIs and why this illness is prevalent in older folks. Thanks for asking and hopefully this will help your situation.

Risk of a UTI is higher in anyone with dementia, especially women
-Hygiene issues: People with dementia often use improper wiping techniques when using the bathroom (wiping back to front or not wiping at all. This increases the spread of bacteria.
-Incontinence: As dementia progresses, the ability to control bladder and bowel urges declines. Adult incontinence pads/briefs of lower quality can also add to the problem because they don’t absorb urine as well.
-Reduced mobility: Decreased mobility due to advancing illness also increases the chance of UTI.
-Other conditions common in older adults can increase the possibility of an UTI: diabetes, prostate problems in men, weaker immune systems, etc.

Tips to Reduce the Chances of UTI

-Encourage adequate fluids
-Assist the person with dementia in cleaning themselves after urinating or a bowel movement.
-Encourage clothing that can breathe
-Encourage the person to urinate more often
-Change incontinence briefs/pads more often

This information is not all inclusive and every situation/person is different; if you suspect something is not quite right with your loved one’s health, please contact your physician for an appointment and evaluation.

If you have topics you’d like more information on or questions you’d like answered, please email me: DearGrace@pibarre.org or write me: Dear Grace, c/o Project Independence, 81 N. Main Street – Suite 1, Barre, VT 05641-4283

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