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UTIs: A Leading Reason for Emergency Room Visits

Adults over age 80 often end up in the hospital when urinary tract infection symptoms mimic those of a stroke or dementia

· UTIs,UTI Prevention,UTI Hospitalization,UTI Symptoms,UTI Elderly

As a caregiver, you may know something a little too well: UTIs are a leading reason people end up in the emergency room.

For individuals 85 and over, this holds especially true. UTIs are the main reason for trips to the emergency room in this age group, accounting for nearly a million ER visits annually. In fact, incontinence and mobility issues increase one’s risk for a UTI.

UTIs and Hospitalizations

Undetected UTIs can quickly affect the entire urinary system, including the bladder and kidneys, and can lead to sepsis. People hospitalized for UTIs spend four days inpatient, on average, and often leave the hospital in worse condition than before they ever had the UTI.

It may seem strange that such a common diagnosis goes undetected until it’s too late. But UTI symptoms in older adults don’t necessarily match the telltale symptoms of UTIs—frequent and painful urination— in younger age groups. Instead, UTIs in older adults are often characterized by symptoms including delirium or falls, and are frequently mistaken for signs of a stroke or dementia.

To further complicate early detection of a UTI, many people with Alzheimer’s or dementia are not able to articulate their symptoms, leaving them to silently suffer.

UTI Detection

So this begs the question: How can we detect the UTIs early and intervene in order to avoid hospitalizations and antibiotics?

The most common tool for assessing the presence of a UTI is the urinary dipstick. Simply collect urine in a cup, dip the stick, and read the color change. Dipsticks are great for people who are still able to use the toilet on their own.

Monitoring for UTIs becomes more challenging for people who experience incontinence since it's difficult to collect urine in a cup. In the past, caregivers would have to wait for symptoms to appear and hope they didn’t worsen, or catheterize the individual in order to test the urine with a dipstick.

This is no longer the case.

Pixie Scientific has created the first way for incontinent people to monitor for UTIs from home. Pixie’s “smart” incontinence pads are worn twice per week in a brief or pull-up and contain a biosensor that detects early signs of an infection.

After the pad is worn, users or their caregivers will receive a call from the Pixie nurse who will let them know if there is a risk for infection. If there’s a risk, the Pixie nurse may recommend hydration and close monitoring, or a visit to the doctor for a urinalysis.

UTI Prevention

In addition to ongoing monitoring for UTIs, here are some tips for preventing them:

  • changing incontinence products regularly

  • staying hydrated

  • practicing good hygiene

  • wiping from front to back

Despite commonly held beliefs, cranberry juice is not proven to prevent or cure UTIs.

Have questions about UTIs? The Pixie team is here to help! Email them at [email protected] or call 855-749-4366.

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