What Are the Symptoms of Sepsis from a UTI in the Elderly?

symptoms of sepsis from uti in elderly

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) for a young, healthy individual might not seem so dangerous, but they can progress and become life-threatening in older adults. UTIs are very common. In fact, they are among the most common infections in humans. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 50-60% of women will get a UTI in their lifetimes. While they occur much more often in women, men and young children can also experience them. In the elderly, these infections have the potential to turn deadly and lead to sepsis. If your older loved one has a UTI, you might wonder about the symptoms of sepsis from UTI in elderly people.

A urinary tract infection should never be ignored, especially not in nursing homes. Unfortunately, nursing home negligence can lead to conditions that foster urinary tract infections. Furthermore, when nursing home staff members fail to administer the proper care, an untreated UTI could lead to sepsis. This is an egregious form of nursing home negligence that puts older adults at risk of serious health conditions or even wrongful death. If you suspect that nursing home negligence has led to your loved one’s UTI or sepsis, contact Lipton Law as soon as possible. Our Michigan nursing home abuse lawyers are here for you. To schedule your free consultation, please call 248-557-1688 today.

What to Know About UTIs in Older Adults

Many things change in our bodies as we age. This includes how our bodies react to certain diseases, infections, and other serious health problems. Even something as seemingly mild as urinary tract infections can be deadly to older adults. Especially when left untreated for too long, seniors are more likely to experience severe symptoms. For this reason, it is imperative that those at a higher risk of infection be properly cared for.

Unfortunately, negligence in nursing homes puts elderly patients at greater risk of infection, kidney damage, and other serious symptoms. Assisted living community staffers and family caregivers must remain vigilant for UTIs in the elderly. Otherwise, they could be held liable for an elder’s suffering and pain.

Why Are Seniors More at Risk for UTIs?

Older adults are generally more vulnerable to urinary tract infections for a few reasons. The muscles of the lower abdomen, bladder, and pelvic floor weaken as we age. This can lead to urinary incontinence and urine retention, which is when urine remains in the urinary tract. When urine stays in the urinary tract for extended periods of time, it increases the risk of bacterial growth. As bacteria multiply, the infection spreads.

Additionally, seniors have weaker immune systems. A weakened immune system plus other factors such as urinary catheter use, diabetes, and kidney problems all combine to increase the risk of UTIs in older adults.

Notably, postmenopausal women are more at risk of frequent UTIs than men. This is due to a few reasons, including low estrogen, vaginal inflammation, and anatomy.

UTIs in the Elderly

It’s important to understand exactly how UTIs develop in the body. The urinary tract includes four main parts: the urethra, the ureters, the bladder, and the kidneys. As we mentioned before, women are much more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men. This is mostly due to the fact that women have shorter urethras than men.

Aside from the typical UTI symptoms, elderly adults tend to also experience confusion. Although it is a known symptom, we still don’t fully understand why confusion occurs in the elderly. 

Types of UTIs

  • Fungal infection
  • Urethritis (urethra infection)
  • Vaginitis (vaginal infection)
  • Cystitis (bladder infection)
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

How Serious Is a UTI in the Elderly?

UTIs are among the most common infections, especially in older adults. However, if caregivers fail to prescribe antibiotics and treat the infection, one of several serious complications could occur. Potential UTI complications include the following.

  • Kidney infections
  • Bladder infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Sepsis

How to Diagnose a UTI

Generally, if doctors suspect a UTI, they will order a urine culture test to determine the specific bacteria causing the infection. This will allow the doctor to develop the proper treatment plan for the infection.

Notably, older adults can also suffer from asymptomatic bacteriuria or ASB. This condition involves bacteria being present in the urine but not causing any symptoms. Usually, unless symptoms arise, this condition does not require treatment.

UTI Symptoms in Elderly People

Older people tend to have slightly different symptoms than younger people. Potential symptoms of a UTI in an older adult could include the following.

  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination
  • Constantly feeling like they have a full bladder
  • Thick, cloudy, or darkly colored urine
  • Pressure or pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Confusion
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Poor appetite
  • Frequent falls
  • Dizziness
  • Bloody urine

Many people might dismiss some of these symptoms as normal aging changes. However, sudden behavioral changes are a telltale sign of an infection in the urinary system.

Can a UTI Cause Sepsis?

uti in elderly

Yes. When bad bacteria from a UTI spread to the kidneys, this can lead to urosepsis. Urosepsis is sepsis that results from a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sepsis is the body’s immune response to an infection, but it tends to be very life-threatening, especially in those with a weak immune system.

Urosepsis usually occurs when symptoms of a UTI go untreated for too long. During sepsis, the body basically attacks its own tissues in response to the infection. Sepsis infection in older adults can be life-threatening and require hospitalization. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of sepsis.

Symptoms of Sepsis from UTI in Elderly People

Failing to prevent infection and then failing to treat infection could potentially lead to sepsis in the elderly. If your loved one experiences the following symptoms, they may have sepsis.

  • High respiratory rate
  • Sudden change or drop in blood pressure
  • Abnormal white blood cell count
  • Organ failure
  • Changes in mental state, especially in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • Low blood platelet count
  • High lactic acid levels in the blood

Can a UTI Cause Confusion in Older People?

Yes. UTIs can cause delirium (sudden confusion) in older people, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s important to be aware of any potential risk factors that your loved one may have. UTIs can make their dementia temporarily worse, making it difficult for them to communicate about their symptoms. If your loved one experiences a sudden behavioral change, we recommend speaking with a doctor right away.

How Do You Know if a UTI Is Turning into Sepsis?

Sepsis can result from a common infection from bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and other organisms. Once sepsis sets in, most patients have only a few days for proper treatment before their condition becomes grim. Upon diagnosis, the most effective method of treatment is administering intravenous antibiotics. Again, prompt diagnosis and treatment are imperative to the health of older adults.

How Are UTIs Treated in Older Adults?

Keeping an eye out for UTIs and treating them as soon as they occur is essential to avoid further complications. Long-term care facilities should take the following steps to treat UTIs in their patients.

  • Administering antibiotics and ensuring that the patient takes them for the entire duration of the treatment. Stopping antibiotics too early could lead to antibiotic resistance, which makes the medication less effective.
  • Ensuring that patients drink plenty of water. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush out bacteria.
  • Administering prophylactic antibiotics for patients who experience frequent UTIs.

Tips for Preventing UTIs in the Elderly

Because elderly patients are at such a high risk of infections and other health problems, the best way to approach a UTI is to take great care in preventing them. Taking steps to avoid infections altogether is the best course of action. Below, we outline simple tips for preventing UTIs in long-term care residents.

  • Drinking enough water each day
  • Cranberry juice (with no added sugar) or cranberry tablets can help prevent bacteria from settling in the bladder.
  • Ensuring good personal hygiene, especially in the genital area
  • Checking diapers and catheters frequently
  • Urinating when the urge arises instead of holding it in
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoiding the use of douches and other potential irritants

Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer with Lipton Law

If your loved one is in a long-term care facility or a nursing home, you might worry about the quality of care they receive. At Lipton Law, our Michigan nursing home abuse lawyers stand ready to hold all responsible parties accountable for your loved one’s injuries and illnesses. Nursing home abuse has many forms, including bedsores, urosepsis, elder abuse, and nursing home falls. You and your elderly loved one deserve full and fair compensation for the negligent actions of others. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call 248-557-1688 today. Victms may be able to recover significant sepsis malpractice settlements with the help of a skilled attorney.