UFO ABDUCTION OR UTI?           By Lori La Bey

Chances are high the person you are caring for will get a Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI somewhere along the way.  They are extremely common, but can cause some very bizarre behaviors.  I suggest you discuss this possibility with their Doctor long before you have to deal with one.   Also, ask the Doctor for tips on how to prevent an infection from occurring.

Here is an example with my Mother.   Mom was very lethargic, just totally out of it. She slept most of the day, which was unusual for her.  She could barely raise her head to look at you and if she did, she could only hold her neck up or keep her eyes open for a few seconds.  When she opened her eyes, they would roll back in head and her lids would shut a couple of seconds later.  She might try to talk but she could barely move her lips.  If she tried to move her arms or fingers you would see her struggle and than just quit in exhaustion.  It was horrible to watch.

I thought Mom either had a stroke, or was being overdosed on medications.  As a lay person it seemed like the only two possible reasons, and to be honest, a urinary tract infection never once crossed my mind as being the culprit!

I asked the nurse to please check on her and told her I thought Mom may have had a stroke or else was being over medicated.  The nurse said very casual, “Oh, it’s probably a UTI.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A UTI, a Urinary Tract Infection.  They are very common and do strange things to people.” She said.

I know I must have looked at her like she was nuts, and in my mind she was.  “Come on, a bladder infection, get real,” was screaming in my head.  “No, I don’t think so.  She is not going to the bathroom all the time.  She’s just totally out of it like she is being overdosed!”  I stated brashly.

“Oh, it’s really common, Lori, and the reactions are so bizarre and different for every person.  Their bodies can even start shutting down if it’s not caught in time.”  The Staff told me.

“No way!” popped out of my mouth.

“Let me go check your Mom and her medications and see if anything has changed.  I’ll also check the med charting to make sure things have been delivered correctly,” and off she went.

A few minutes later, she was back and said all looked fine.  Nothing appeared to have been change.  She asked, “How about if I get her tested for a UTI, alert the staff to watch her closely and we will see tomorrow what the results are.  If it is not a UTI, we will dig deeper. Would that work for you?”

I said, “OK” reluctantly and waited for a call.  The next day my phone rang.  It was the Nursing Home saying Mom had a UTI and they were putting her on medications to correct the problem.  Shortly the side effects where gone and Mom was back to her old self.

The side effects in this situation were extreme, but I have also seen my Mother’s moods change when she has gotten a UTI.  She will get weepy, angry, or even aggressive.  You never know how their body will react, but checking for a UTI is quick, simple, and an easy fix if that truly is the problem.

6 Replies to “UFO ABDUCTION OR UTI?”

  1. I know of a woman who has been hospitalized twice in the last three years due to delirium caused by a UTI. She doesn’t have dementia, but found herself in the emergency room “talking out of her head.” A few days’ worth of IV antibiotics cleared up the problem.

    But many people of a certain age, especially if they have chronic health problems (including dementia), have compromised immune systems that make it difficult to recognize the presence of what starts out as a simple bladder infection, until that infection has spread throughout the body. If they don’t always empty their bladder when they urinate, or have a problem with incontinence or even stress leakage, that places them at further risk.

    There are some things being done in an effort to prevent recurrent UTIs, and you may want to check with your mother’s doctor about it. I know of one long-term care facility who gives all of its residents a daily cranberry pill for prophylaxis.

  2. My wife Linda, an Alzheimer’s patient, has had a few of these. I had the same experience as Lori — Linda forgot how to walk one day, and I didn’t know what to do. A few calls to experts suggested it was a UTI, we got her to the emergency room, and that was the problem. After that, I learned to keep an eye on her balance and walking, and I caught the next one myself. Recently, she had the same symptoms as Lori’s mom: wide mood swings, including crying jags and aggression. This time, it was the family doctor who diagnosed her. Two days on antibiotics, and last night she was almost back to her usual self, all happy and laughing. Every caregiver should be given this post as part of basic training!

  3. HI David,
    It is incredible to think a UTI can cause so many different symptoms! Yikes it sure keeps us on our toes as caregivers.
    Thanks for you comments. It’s wonderful to hear others stories too.

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