UTI symptoms in the elderly may only be cognitive, rendering them incapable of knowing they have an infection that can spread to the kidneys and be fatal.
The typical signs of a urinary tract infection in younger people include a burning when voiding and a continuous feeling of having to void, yet little or nothing comes out.
These hard-to-ignore symptoms get people to the doctor.
But what about elderly people with a UTI? They may not have any physical symptoms.
It’s a well-known fact among doctors that a person over 65 with a UTI often never feels any physical symptoms that alert them to see a doctor.
If they’re living alone and nobody frequently checks up on them, it’s quite possible for them to ultimately die from kidney failure due to an untreated UTI that was never noticed – because the only symptoms were cognitive.
And when someone undergoes changes in mental status, they’ll lack the insight to realize anything is wrong.
“Many elderly present later in the stage of a UTI because the symptoms are atypical,” says Michael Ingber, MD, board certified in urology, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, and founder of The Center for Specialized Women’s Health, division of Garden State Urology.
Dr. Ingber explains, “Many others write off the complaints and don’t come in until it’s too late.
“Sometimes by the time they come to the ER they are already septic.
“The safest thing to do is to have a doctor available, so if there is any change in symptoms, be it headache, change in urination, fever or generally feeling ‘off,’ you can go get tested.”
Elderly People Living Alone with Minimal Social Interaction
For introverted senior age people who have little to no social contact, how will they know to even get to the ER “too late” if their cognitive impairment – from a UTI – has dismantled their ability to realize they need to see a doctor?
Seems that the only recourse is an ounce of prevention: a home UTI kit.
A person over 65 would need to test themselves on a regular basis no matter how great they feel, since it’s likely that once an infection begins, they’ll experience altered mental status and perhaps forget to take or disregard the home UTI test.
“Yes, home UTI kits do exist,” says Dr. Ingber.
“And not only that, but there are some which are based on smartphone apps which will connect you with a doctor if it’s positive.
“Check out scanwellhealth.com — they have an amazing app, where they have turned your smartphone into our in-office $15K urinalysis machine.
“It’ll read a urine strip and tell you if there’s a UTI. If so, you have the option of connecting with a doctor and getting medical advice.”
A home UTI kit is only as good as the person – older or not – having the insight to test for this infectious disease that, remember, can spread to the kidneys and cause very serious complications if not treated in time.
Dr. Ingber is board-certified in Urology and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery; is a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health. The Center for Specialized Women’s Health, division of Garden State Urology & Atlantic Medical Group.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.