Urinary Tract Infections and Alzheimer's Disease

by Christine Kennard Health Professional

For people with Alzheimer's disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can present particular difficulties. Later stage Alzheimer's disease is associated with increased difficulties in communication. Therefore, someone with a UTI, might be experiencing pain and discomfort yet be unable to articulate this. However, sudden changes in behavior, such as aggression , anxiety, violence, may be an indication that something is physically wrong. People with Alzheimer's get sick too, but far too often, their change in behavior is attributed to dementia rather than from a physical cause.

Urinary tract infections are more common in older people, people who are bedridden or who require total nursing care, those who are catheterized, or who use continence aids and in people whose immune system is compromised.

Symptoms of UTI include the following:

  • Urine looks cloudy or milky. It may look a reddish color in serious cases of urine infection if blood
    is present.

  • Urine often smells offensive.

  • People with a UTI often feel they need to go to the bathroom frequently. Often they only pass a small amount of urine.

  • Nausea, even vomiting.

  • Fever.

  • Painful, burning sensations in the area of the bladder or urethra, when they pass urine. The person may cry out or show distress when urinating.

  • Back pain. The person may clutch or rub their back

  • Fatigue. The person may be less willing to carry out tasks or be more reluctant to eat or to exercise.

Some, or all of these signs and symptoms, may indicate a urine infection. Consult a doctor who will do a physical examination, take a urine sample and other tests, in order to exclude other diseases.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections

Antibiotics such as Macrodantin , may be prescribed. The type of antibiotic prescribed will depend on the person's medical history, the cause of the UTI, the bacteria causing it, and the person's previous response to any previous or similar infections. Pain relief may be required. It may help with disturbed behavior and sleeplessness. If someone has frequent recurrent urinary tract infections his/her doctor may prescribe
a low dose course of antibiotics for periods of 6 months or more.

Caregiver Tips on Urinary Tract Infections

Caregivers can help by encouraging the person in their care to drink plenty of fluids. Increased urinary incontinence may be a problem so be vigilant and keep the person clean, dry and comfortable. If you use absorbent underwear, frequent changes will discourage further infection and discomfort. When carrying out personal hygiene routines for women, wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra. Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays. Encourage showers rather than baths if possible. Maintain previous toilet routines & trips to the bathroom, otherwise incontinence may become a permanent feature.

More information about the cause of urinary tract infections

More information about UTI

Christine Kennard
Meet Our Writer
Christine Kennard

Christine Kennard wrote about Alzheimer's for HealthCentral. She has many years of experience in private and public sector nursing care homes for people with dementia. She has worked in a variety of hospital, public and private health settings and specialized in community nursing. Christine is qualified in group analytic psychotherapy, is registered in general and mental health nursing and has a Masters degree.