Does a urinary tract infection (UTI) cause changes in behavior or personality in someone with Alzheimer’s?

Yes, if an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia suddenly and without reason exhibits sudden changes in his/her behavior such as agitation, confusion, hallucinations or withdrawal, it might be caused by a UTI. The individual might not have the ability to express the way he/she is feeling, so it is important that the caregiver is familiar with the symptoms of a UTI, as well as to quickly get him/her the medical treatment.

Pain and burning and an increased urine odor are usual indicators of a UTI, but the affected individual is, for the most part, unable to let someone know of this discomfort. In addition to the urine odor, watch for signs of fatigue, fever, nausea or vomiting. If the individual is constantly distressed and exhibits increased confusion, or if he/she yells or cries while urinating, the caregiver should consult a physician immediately. Additionally, the individual may be listless and unwilling to participate in daily activities, and his/her appetite may decrease noticeably.

It is important to tell the individual’s doctor of any signs he/she are experiencing related to a UTI. A urine sample will be tested to find out which antibiotic to use. Collecting a sample of urine from a person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia may be difficult, and a caregiver is the best person to help with getting the sample. If the individual is incontinent and wears a pad, a urine collection pack can be used to obtain a sample of the urine.

Treatment for a UTI usually involves a course of antibiotic medication. Minimizing risks for a urinary tract infection include monitoring fluid intake (6-8 glasses of water daily); cueing the individual to use the bathroom every two to three hours, and ensuring that the individual maintains good hygiene, including taking daily showers.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.