Family Caregiver Tips from Give a Care | Preventing UTI’s
UTI’s certainly have a rep as a juvenile annoyance that young women are prone to, however, it turns out that they are very serious infections older folks and people who experience incontinence have to deal with constantly. UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) are bacteria infections in any part of the urinary system including the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. If not treated, they can be very dangerous and result in everything from kidney failure to blood infections.
One very serious time, Mom had a UTI that spread to her kidneys and resulted in septicaemia, bacteria infecting her blood. We didn’t know anything was wrong until her fever shot up to over 105 degrees and she went to the hospital. They were able to save her and teach us about neurogenic bladder, kidney health and how to prevent future infections (which she did end up having). We have been infection free for a year now and have uncovered some top tips for preventing UTIs:
Disclaimer: Give a Care in no way promises that taking any of these steps will absolutely prevent you or your loved one from getting a UTI. Please consult a doctor if you are concerned about preventing or treating an infection.
- Keep clean: We’re not just talking about the well known “wipe from front to back.” If you are caring for someone who experiences incontinence, uses adult diapers or a catheter, cleanliness must be a priority. We change Mom’s diaper every 2 to 3 hours, and when we do, we use a perineal spray and baby wipes to get her extra clean, and then a dry cloth to make sure we don’t leave the area super moist before putting her diaper back on. We order the perineal spray* in bulk simply on Amazon and stock up on baby wipes at Costco to save money.
- Cranberry: Every nurse, doctor and urologist has told us that while it’s not 100% clinically proven to help prevent UTIs, they welcome the use of cranberry for folks who experience frequent infections. It was believed that the salicylic acid in cranberry created a hostile environment that stemmed the growth of bacteria, but more recent findings conclude that some of the chemicals in cranberries actually prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract where they can multiply. You can find cranberry in pill/capsule and liquid form at your drugstore or pharmacy, or online of course, and you can also find cranberry juice at the grocery store. Note, cranberry juice cocktail is not a true dose of pure cranberry – you’ll want to drink something with “100% cranberry” on the label, with no additives or additional sugars. It’s going to be super tart naturally, so we prefer to give mom a daily concentrate of Cystex Liquid Cranberry Complex Supplement – it’s just 1 to 2 tablespoons per day, and we typically stir it in with her pills.
- Low-dose antibiotics: After experiencing 3 or 4 UTIs in a year, Mom’s urologist decided to put her on a low dose antibiotic (typically 100mg of Microdantin or 500mg of Cephalexin) daily to help prevent future infections. If your loved one experiences a recurring or chronic UTI, definitely see a urologist about this option. While it is not ideal to be on antibiotics regularly because one’s body can build up a drug resistance, the alternative of continuing to get infections can certainly call for it.
- D-Mannose: D-Mannose is a glucose related sugar that you can order online or find in natural food stores like “Whole Foods.” Like cranberry, D-Mannose is believed to help with preventing UTIs by making it difficult for bacteria to stick to the lining of the urinary tract. The Cystex Cranberry Complex I mentioned above contains D-Mannose in it. Definitely consult your doctor prior to trying D-Mannose as dosage can vary by age, health and other conditions. A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry in 2016 revealed that in a small sample of patients with Multiple Sclerosis who experienced chronic UTIs, D-Mannose significantly decreased the number of infections recorded each month. You can read that study called here.
- Dry out: Bacteria needs a warm, moist environment to be able to grow, which it can find readily in the body. Every now and then, Mom does some side time without wearing anything on her bottom half, simply to let air get to the area and help dry things out. This is good for pressure ulcers too, so it serves a dual purpose for us and seems to help.
- Be observant: Know the signs and symptoms your loved one exhibits when they get a UTI. For older people or folks like Mom who have diminished brain function already, excessive confusion or agitation can actually be a sign of infection, as well as kidney pain, pain when urinating, cloudy or dark urine, and low grade fever. If we notice Mom having more frequent than normal seizures and fluctuations in her body temperature, we’ll ask her GP to order a urinalysis (urine culture) to be taken by her home health agency in our home. This can quickly rule out if Mom has a UTI, and helps us get her on meds right away to start clearing it up. If an infection has spread to the kidneys, more serious symptoms like nausea and vomiting, high grade fever, chills and excessive fatigue may occur. Seek immediate medical attention if that is the case.
Keeping a daily journal as a caregiver of how your loved one is feeling, their appetite and any symptoms they may be exhibiting is a good way to track patterns and general progress, especially if you’re dealing with a recurring infection. We hope these tips help! Let us know if you have any questions or additional tips by leaving a comment below.
Thanks for checking out these UTI prevention tips from Give a Care! What else have you tried to help prevent your loved one from developing a UTI?