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  • Dr. Burchette

UTI's + Dementia= Dangerous

A urinary tract infection – also known as a “UTI” – is a painful condition in a person that is healthy. If the person with this type of infection has been diagnosed with dementia, it can result in a highly concerning issue.


What Is a UTI?


A UTI occurs when an infection, typically caused by bacteria, makes its way into the urinary tract through the means of the urethra. This is the tube that allows urine to pass from the bladder in the body to the outside of the body.


This bacterium has the capability of moving up through the urinary tract and it may result in an infection of the bladder. If it continues its movement through the system, it could also infect the kidneys.


Women are at a higher risk of a UTI than men. However, anyone may develop this type of infection.


Symptoms of a UTI

  • Sudden changes in behavior, including confusion, aggression, hallucinations, and paranoia.

  • Increased difficulty urinating.

  • Changes in urine smell.

  • Darkening urine color.

  • Fever.


What is Dementia?


Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that includes Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s dementia, Lewy body dementia, and other forms. These are conditions that slowly progress and lead to a decline in cognition. Dementia doesn’t reveal itself overnight. It is something that takes place slowly over the course of many years.


What Happens When Someone with Dementia Gets a UTI?


The physical symptoms include a burning feeling when attempting to urinate, a high level of urgency in feeling the need to urinate, and urine that appears to be cloudy, exceptionally dark, or even bloody.


Additionally, fatigue, fever, chills, and shakiness may be experienced. The issue comes in when a dementia patient is unable to express how they feel because of the fact that they cannot find the right words.


This causes the person with dementia to have increased behavioral symptoms – on top of their physical symptoms. It is very common for people with dementia to become increasingly confused, agitated, and develop delirium. Individuals with dementia may also display signs of aggression and may start to socially withdraw.


The two types of delirium include hypoactive delirium, which is when the person becomes sleepy and is unable to rouse awake, and also stops eating; and hyperactive delirium, which is when they become confused, agitated and may hallucinate.


Many individuals may experience a high level of restlessness, hallucinations, may start to suffer from incontinence, and their urine may develop a strong odor. The behavior changes occur very quickly.


Finally, a UTI may detrimentally impact the appetite, the balance, and may even result in a fall. If you pick up on any severe changes that occur in a short period of time, seek medical assistance immediately. If the UTI is not treated quickly, it could spread to the kidneys and even to the bloodstream. This could quickly become life-threatening. This is very important because the repercussions from a severe UTI may worsen the trajectory of dementia, even after the initial infection clears up.


Preventing UTIs


Staying one step ahead of urinary tract infections is a never-ending struggle for adult children of vulnerable older parents. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one prevent a UTI in a number of ways:

  • Hygiene is imperative. Wipe from front to back after toileting and wash down there while showering.

  • Encourage them to stay hydrated to keep urine diluted because bacteria are drawn to concentrated urine.

  • They can drink water, cranberry juice, or Gatorade.


When you see sudden behavioral changes, it is important to rule a UTI out and consult with your doctor.


If needed, the doctor may refer the person for neuropsychological testing once the infection has cleared to better identify the current neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses. This can also assist in determining which stage of dementia the person may be in.

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