Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can significantly impact an older adult's physical and mental health. If left untreated, UTIs can cause dementia-like symptoms and a host of other behavioral and physical issues.
The AgingCare Caregiver Forum has become a resource for family caregivers looking for advice and tips for dealing with recurrent UTIs in an aging loved one. Here are some tips gathered directly from the experience of other caregivers on how to prevent or treat a UTI:
Supplements and Recipes for Treating UTI in the Elderly
"I have been using AZO tablets on mom for several months now. They promote cleanliness in the urinary tract and are equal to one glass of cranberry juice per tablet. Mom has not had a UTI since. They can be found in the women's section of most stores." —JeanetteB
"I get my mother-in-law D-Mannose tablets and she has not had a UTI since she starting taking it over nine months ago." —dnolen
"A home and natural remedy we use for UTI is two cups of yogurt mixed with one-half cup of apple cider vinegar, add fresh fruit for taste and a glass of 100 percent cranberry juice. Eat this once a day for seven days. To keep a bladder healthy on an ongoing basis, do this at least three days a week." —homecare1
"Try high potency cranberry supplements. Went through this with my mom, who refuses to drink water. After finding her unconscious from what turned out to be a UTI, I realized I had to take matters into my own hands. (Knock on wood) Mom hasn't had a UTI in a year. Also try limiting sweets, especially fruit juices, which are full of sugar. I do give Mom sweets, but I monitor her sugar (she's diabetic). All things in moderation." —Oyveyreally
"I do keep D-Mannose capsules on hand, as well as using a daily women's probiotic with cranberry extract for mom. (D-Mannose works well on the most common bacteria in UTIs, but there are specific other treatments, depending on the circumstances and whether other bacteria are involved.)" —mary4th
"Most juices have a great deal of sugar, which is going to contribute to UTIs. Try the cranberry pill (so says Dr. Oz) and get yogurt with live cultures (not sugary varieties). I get plain and add real fruit. Pineapple juice is great for females, but you could try it for males. My 89-year-old husband doesn't like water, but I add ice cubes to things or offer coffee, which is mostly water. Don't forget vegetables, which contain a lot of water. I don't like Ensure because it is mostly sugar and has milk and soy in it. Dairy can contribute to UTIs." —ferris1
"It was suggested to me to increase hydration. I give my aunt fruit with a high water content and to make smoothies with lots of ice. Just put frozen fruit, yogurt and ice in blender and have at it." —beenthere60
Senior Toileting Tips for Preventing UTI
"A senior could be having problems emptying their bladder. If possible, when they urinate in the toilet, count to thirty once they have finished and then encourage him to give it another push. In potty-training my disabled son, an autism specialist told me that after the initial urge is gone, the brain can stop/reduce the message that they still needed to go. I know I've tried it myself and I am always amazed at how much I'll go again after the count. Sorry if that's TMI! Lastly, if they are wearing adult diapers, you may need to be changing them more frequently since they are bacteria sponges." —Rainmom
"Encourage/help older folks get to the toilet at least every 2 hours. Sometimes, older folks don't feel thirsty, sometimes they forget to drink, but sometimes, they are afraid of urinary accidents and avoid drinking enough fluids. It's very important to keep going to the bathroom to empty that bladder." —MomDaughterRN
Senior Hygiene Tips For Fighting UTI
"Properly clean the genital area. Wipe front to back!!!!!"—chachachia
"Having experience with both parents and trying everything that would provide them privacy and better bathroom hygiene, I found a "portable bidet." Before sitting on the toilet, one fills the bidet with warm water. Before using toilet paper, one sprays the water and gets the area much cleaner than just toilet paper would. I imagine it makes them feel fresher and prevents leakage on their pull-ups, also. It causes a bit of water cleanup around the toilet, but it was worth it for me. Sometimes elderly people have aches and pains that prevent them from maintaining good hygiene." —ProfeChari
"This worked for our elderly mother at the care center:
- Do not use soap or wipes to clean
- Use Cetaphil with warm water
- Rinse and dry thoroughly
- Always put Aquaphor on the underwear pad and on the patient
After a bath or shower, once or twice or a week, let the patient lie in bed with no pad on and let the air be on the patient." —caregivermarin
"Cleanliness is the key; change early and often. Besides the bidet, you can get a perineal bottle which would allow you to rinse the area well." —glasshalffull
"Change incontinence products frequently. Don't allow bacteria to stay in contact with your genitals. Do I need to say don't re-use wet pads?!"—stressedmama
"No bubble baths! Switch to showers with a sit down chair."—imcaringhere
Elderly Fluid Intake and UTI
"It seems that the elderly really do not enjoy drinking water, but water flushes the body and helps clear out the bacteria. It is suggested that drinking half your weight in ounces of water can help a UTI. That's a lot, so any increase is better than none. Maybe a better tasting or flavored water (a better brand in a bottle) would be easier for your loved one, and try to give it to them at room temperature. My board certified nutritionist would tell you that it is better to drink water at room temperature." —20Eagle16
"Find ways to increase their fluid intake that don't involve drinking. It's hard to get most elderly folks to up their fluid intake. Does your loved one like popsicles? There are brands that have 100% fruit juice in them. If they are diabetic, perhaps you can make your own. Italian ices are another method." —NurseRatched
"Water intake is critical and a difficult battle, I know. I keep a glass of water by mom at all times, but left to her own volition—even with constant reminders to drink—she will consume all of a few ounces during a day. (Micro sips!) Which is why I have a set of tall, colored 'shot' glasses that hold 2 oz. each and periodically throughout the day, I will have her drink a 'shot' of water. (I stand there while she downs it.) I also give her one of these with any pills she takes, doling out one pill at a time so she gets at least that much water with any medication." —mary4th
UTI Prevention Tips
"Here are some suggestions I was given at discharge to prevent/delay future UTIs:
- Drink plenty of water instead of just liquids (use the old eight 8oz glasses rule if nothing else, but the more the better). Drink water and water-based fluids (tea, etc.) instead of anything else, all day long. That alone will facilitate urination.
- Encourage (remind) the person to urinate as necessary. A good rule of thumb, in the absence of infection, is every 1-2 hours.
- Be sure the gential area is kept clean, especially if the person is not circumcised (natural breeding ground for bacteria). This may require trimming some pubic hair in order to be thorough.
- If briefs or pads are used, check frequently and change them if they are damp or wet. Clean the genital area with each change.
- In cases of dementia, the brain may 'forget' or ignore signals of the need to urinate. It may be beneficial to schedule train the person, if possible." —mrranch2
Caregivers should be on the lookout for physical symptoms such as bloody or cloudy urine, a frequent urge to urinate, pain or burning during urination, low-grade fever, and strong-smelling urine. These can all be indicators of a urinary tract infection in the elderly. Often an older adult does not communicate these typical physical symptoms to a caregiver. Instead, a caregiver notices a sudden change in behavior or psychological symptoms. Seek medical attention for any sudden changes, as UTI's are highly treatable with antibiotics.