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Is It Alzheimer’s or a Urinary Tract Infection?

urinary tract infection

Behavior changes are alarming

If your older adult’s behavior changes, it’s normal to be worried. And with Alzheimer’s and dementia all over the news, it’s natural to think that your senior might have a cognitive or memory issue.

Or, if your older adult already has dementia, it might seem like their abilities or behavior have suddenly taken a turn for the worse.

Why it might not be dementia

When a senior starts acting confused or disoriented, it’s not always a sign of Alzheimer’s – especially if the change is sudden. Alzheimer’s and other dementias usually take several years to become noticeable and start with small changes.


Confusion is a common sign of UTI in seniors

Common medical conditions can cause seniors to suddenly show dementia-like symptoms or cause existing dementia symptoms to worsen significantly. One of the most common is a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Seniors are the most likely group of people to have a UTI. They’re also the group that’s least likely to have the usual symptoms like pain during urination, fever, or a frequent urge to go.

Instead, many caregivers find out their older adults have a UTI because there’s a sudden change in behavior. Someone who suddenly can’t do something they could a week ago might have a UTI. Falls, recent incontinence, or loss of appetite can also be signs of an infection.

Alzheimer’s UTI symptoms

If someone already has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may also show sudden, unexplained behavior changes when they have a UTI.

Even though dementia is a progressive disease and symptoms do change over time, it’s a good idea to check for an infection when sudden changes happen. A UTI can make someone with dementia more agitated, difficult, confused, or less responsive than usual.

Why does a UTI cause behavior changes?

The infection puts a lot of stress on your older adult’s immune system. That causes the changes in behavior, sometimes called delirium.

Symptoms can include agitation, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, delusions, becoming unusually sleepy, or withdrawn.

Bottom line

If your older adult suddenly starts acting strangely, take them to the doctor to get checked out right away. UTIs can be detected with simple blood tests or with a urine sample. To save a trip, ask the doctor if a home test kit from the drugstore would give accurate results.

If it’s a simple UTI and is caught early, taking antibiotics usually clears up the infection. Once the infection is gone, those scary behavior changes will start to disappear too.

By DailyCaring Editorial Team Image: Caregivers Inc.


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