Caregiver Training Blog

Is it Dementia or a UTI?

question mark blur“Mom didn’t have the usual symptoms of a urinary tract infection, no burning, no odor, no frequency but she did have a profound change in behavior, she slept all day, wouldn’t get out of bed and her normal cheerful demeanor became diminished and agitated.   I was so concerned that it was something much more serious.”

Caregivers can often find it confusing and frustrating in attempting to understand the sudden changes in behavior of their loved ones.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) UTIs in the elderly are often mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's because symptoms may include:

  • Confusion, or delirium-like state
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Other behavioral changes
  • Poor motor skills or dizziness
  • Falling

While UTIs may be quite common especially among women, Amanda Smith, M.D., medical director at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute at the University of South Florida indicates that changes in hygiene may be a factor in older folks.  Perhaps because of confusion or physical limitations – such as arthritis or suffering a stroke which may make it difficult to keep themselves clean.

As a caregiver for an older adult, noticing even subtle changes in behavior may help detect UTIs and allow you to seek the appropriate medical attention as quickly as possible.  Learning what to look for, how to treat a UTI and how to prevent them is an essential element in caring for an older person. 

Dr. Patricia P. Cecconi, MD discusses Preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s), one of over 200 free online videos on mmLearn.org.  This webcast will give you up-to-date information about why these infections are so common (especially among women), strategies to help prevent recurrent infections and treatment options.