Urinary tract infections, or UTI’s, are more than a painful medical condition. Left untreated, these infections can spread through the body. The leading cause of sepsis, an undiagnosed and untreated UTI can ultimately result in death. For caregivers of elderly patients, learning how to recognize a UTI can be tricky as the symptoms are varied. Fortunately, there are three easy ways to avoid an onset of the infection to begin with.
A urinary tract infection in elderly women can have atypical symptoms. They can easily include incontinence, an inability to do basic tasks that are not normally a problem, and general confusion. The trademark painful burning upon urination that so clearly marks a UTI for younger women may or may not be present. It is imperative that caregivers take steps to help their patients avoid UTI’s and watch carefully for any symptoms. A patient who suddenly experiences trouble when feeding herself or dressing herself may be suffering from a UTI.
There are physical signs of a UTI that you can watch for in the urine that is passed. Keep a watchful eye out for urine that is cloudy, bloody, or exhibits an unusually strong odor. A UTI in elderly women may also cause the patient to have to urinate more often, but they will be able to produce less urine.
When caring for an elderly patient, be sure that the perineal area is being cleansed properly. Women should always wipe themselves from the front to the back. If you are tending to perineal care, take steps to ensure that you always wipe your patient starting in front of the urethra and wiping towards the anus. Before wiping the area again, fold the rag to a clean section. The idea is that residue from the anus should never be dragged toward or against the urethra. Patients that wear adult diapers, or briefs, should be changed on a regular basis. They should be checked every two hours or so and they should never be allowed to sit in dirty briefs for prolonged periods. Your patient should also be wiped and cleansed after every brief change and bowel movement. Douches should never be used.
The Right Drinks
What your patient drinks can make a difference. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can irritate the bladder and should be avoided as much as possible. On the other hand, cranberry juice contains active compounds that are able to survive the digestive process. In the urinary tract system, these compounds actively work to fight bacteria. Its effectiveness at treating urinary tract infections has been proven, and regularly consuming cranberry juice can help prevent them. You don’t have to choose straight cranberry juice; it can be blended with apple juice or even water for taste without losing its effectiveness.
Water helps to keep the system flushed out, preventing bacteria from accumulating and causing problems. Cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktails should be offered on a regular basis and water intake should be tracked daily to ensure the patients are consuming enough water.
Never Force Patients to Wait
When an elderly woman expresses that she needs to go the bathroom, her needs should be tended to immediately. Do not, under any circumstances, ask her to wait for a long period of time. Holding a full bladder for long periods of time can quickly lead to a urinary tract infection. When asked for a bedpan, make the time to provide one and when a request is made to take someone to the restroom, find a way to do so.
It is imperative that all staff members of any assisted living home be thoroughly trained in the warning signs, symptoms, and dangers of urinary tract infections. Proper staffing levels should be maintained so that the elimination needs of all patients can be met. Being observant of the women in your care and following the guidelines for avoiding UTIs can help keep your residents healthy and safe.