Urinary tract infections and dementia in elderly: Symptoms and treatment

Urinary tract infections and dementia in elderly: Symptoms and treatmentUrinary tract infections (UTIs) are not only common among seniors, but among those with dementia, too. Furthermore, UTIs among the seniors are often misdiagnosed for dementia, or may be overlooked if a person has dementia, because UTIs in dementia can lead to delirium.

If a person already has dementia, it may be difficult for them to verbalize that something is going on to indicate a urinary tract infection. If an older person has a UTI, the delirium may also make it difficult for them to explain the problem. Caregivers and family members may notice changes in behavior or greater confusion pointing to a UTI.


Urine itself is sterile and does not contain bacteria. A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter the urinary system. In patients with dementia, the risk of a UTI is higher, as their ability to take care of their personal hygiene diminishes.

Abnormal changes to the urinary system may also affect a person’s ability to release urine. When urine sits in the bladder for too long, this increases the risk of a UTI, too. These problems may be caused by an enlarged prostate or prolapsed pelvic organ.

Catheters are actually a common cause of UTIs and should generally be avoided when possible.

Symptoms of a UTI in dementia patients

Aside form the common symptoms experienced during a UTI, such as a burning feeling while urinating, an increased need to urinate, pain in the lower abdomen, blood in urine, cloudy urine, urine with a foul odor, fever, delirium, nausea, and vomiting, there are certain UTI symptoms specific to dementia.

UTI symptoms in dementia include increased frequency of falls, changes in behavior such as aggression, changes in appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, an increase in confusion or disorientation, and an overall decline in function due to another condition that developed suddenly.

Tips to help reduce UTI risk in elderly with dementia


UTIs are commonly treated with antibiotics, but to reduce the risk of contracting the infection, it’s important to follow the prevention tips below.

  • Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated to flush out bacteria
  • Follow proper hygiene practices
  • Don’t hold in urine
  • Wear breathable clothing

Other natural treatment tips include:

  • Sip cranberry juice: Choose the tart, unsweetened juice (sugar adds nothing but calories). Cranberry for bladder health has been a topic of discussion and study. Some research shows drinking pure cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs in elderly, pregnant women, and hospitalized patients.
  • Ease the pain with heat: Inflammation and irritation from UTIs can leave you with pressure and pain around your pubic area or lower back. Try some heat therapy. Apply a heating pad at low temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
  • Get more vitamin C: This healthy vitamin found in berries (like cranberries!), citrus fruits, melons, and cabbage can help make your urine more acidic, which helps support a healthy urinary tract.
  • Eat some yogurt: You want to blast that bad bacteria with good bacteria. If you’ve read anything about yogurt these days, you’ll know the popular dairy treat is packed with probiotics, or good bacteria, for your gut.
  • Ditch the irritants: Now’s the time to focus on your health, so you want to cut out things that can irritate your bladder and make it harder for your body to heal. The culprits? Caffeine, nicotine, spicy food, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and those bad-for-you artificial sweeteners. On the upside, consume more high-fiber carbohydrates like grains and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil – all good for digestion.
  • Wipe front to back: Always wipe from the front to back to avoid infection. Don’t try to reach from behind – germs from the rectum can be transferred to the toilet paper or your hand. Also, never wipe twice with the same tissue.
  • Drink parsley water as it is a natural diuretic and can help flush out your system.
  • Consume more blueberries as they contain ingredients that can work to prevent and treat UTIs.
  • Consume diluted apple cider vinegar as it is a natural antibacterial, so it can help fight off bacteria in the urinary system.

It’s important that caregivers watching over dementia patients pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of a UTI in order to get treatment started early and reduce the risk of complications.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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