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Think UTI first

Posted February 04, 2015 in Advice Column, Clear Lake

Researchers have found that undetected urinary tract infections are common in dementia patients. UTIs go undetected because the symptoms are hard to spot in dementia patients, and most patients cannot tell us they are feeling ill or out of sorts.  As a general rule of thumb you should suspect a urinary tract if you see any of the following changes in a person living with dementia:

  • A patient who suddenly seems more confused or disoriented.
  • A sudden worsening in memory.
  • A spike in the level of anxiety being expressed.
  • Weakness in walking or the ability to get up out of bed.
  • A sudden spike in core body temperature.

The bottom line here is straightforward. Persons living with Alzheimer’s and dementia can’t always tell us they are feeling ill. As a result, it is up to us to pay very close attention to any sudden changes in behavior, attitude, and memory loss.  More often than not, a sudden change indicates some type of infection, and most often, a urinary tract infection.  Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a type of infection which is common among older people. Women are more commonly affected than men. If a person with a memory impairment or dementia has a urinary tract infection, this can cause severe confusion known as ‘delirium’. This factsheet explains the different types of UTI, the symptoms and treatments, and gives tips on how it may be prevented.  UTI can cause confusion in older people and people with dementia. If the person has a sudden and unexplained change in their behavior such as increased confusion, agitation, or withdrawal, this may be caused by a UTI.   The person may not be able to communicate how they feel, therefore it is very important to be familiar with the symptoms of UTI and seek medical help to enable appropriate treatment.

Here is a simple solution to this problem. Buy a cheap digital thermometer. Take the temperature of your loved one when they wake up. Take their temperature in the afternoon. Write down this readings.
Establish the core body temperature of the person when they are not sick. When the temperature spikes up, get to the doctor. That day if possible.

It is also important to be aware that any infection could speed up the progression of dementia and so all infections should be quickly identified and treated.

Information provided by Kimberly Boyd, manager, Country Meadow Place, 17396 Kingbird Ave., Mason City, 641-423-7722.


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