UTIs among elderly women: What you should know

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in senior women. They’re also easily treatable — but only if they’re caught in time.

Unfortunately, nursing homes sometimes overlook the obvious signs of a urinary tract infection until it becomes serious or even fatal to the victim.

What are the symptoms of a UTI in older women?

Urinary tract infections can be fungal or bacterial, and they’re particularly likely to occur in women who have catheters or are bed-bound (which can make it harder to keep bacteria away from the vaginal area after a woman goes to the bathroom). Women with weakened immune systems and those who suffer from incontinence are also prone to UTIs.

Caregivers need to watch for the following signs of trouble:

  • Increased need to urinate (with or without greater output)
  • Complaints of pressure or pain in their lower abdomen or pelvic area
  • Problems emptying their bladder
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Fatigue and fever
  • Pain in their lower back, side or stomach
  • Urine that is cloudy, foul-smelling, thick or bloody
  • Decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting

However, there are other major signs that a UTI may be present in older women that are often overlooked: Confusion, hallucinations and behavioral changes. These typically don’t happen in younger patients and may be dismissed in older patients as age-related.

What happens if a UTI goes untreated?

When a UTI goes untreated for too long, it can easily spread from the bladder to the kidneys, where it can do permanent damage. It can also turn into sepsis, which is an infection of the blood that can eventually lead to death.

A UTI isn’t necessarily a sign of nursing home neglect, but an untreated UTI that progresses to kidney damage or sepsis should be questioned. If you believe that your loved one may have been the victim of nursing home neglect, it may be time to dig a little deeper into the situation.