Do you have older loved ones who are exhibiting memory problems, confusion and disorientation? These symptoms are often attributed to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or age-related memory loss. However, in many cases, they’re actually the result of a urinary tract infection or UTI. Can a UTI cause memory loss? The answer is yes. Learn more about the different ways UTIs affect elderly patients.

What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?

Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract, a system responsible for removing waste from the body. The urinary tract includes the kidneys (which turn waste into urine), the bladder (which stores urine) and the urethra (which allows urine to exit the body).

Generally, the bacteria that causes UTIs comes from the skin or rectum area. Although UTIs can affect anyone, certain segments of the population are more likely to experience them than others. As many women know, females get UTIs more than men — at least 50% of women will have a UTI at least once in their lives.

Older adults are also at risk — 20% of women over age 65 get UTIs, compared to 11% of the general population. The age at which someone gets a UTI can influence the symptoms they experience.


Elderly man holding his lower abdomen concept image for urinary track infection in seniors.


How Are UTIs Connected to Memory Loss?

UTIs affect people differently. While younger people are usually limited to pain symptoms, older adults may experience both physical symptoms and behavioral changes. Here are some of the most common UTI symptoms in elderly patients:

  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Dark or cloudy urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fatigue and nausea
  • Sudden confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Increased aggression
  • Falls
  • Memory problems

Ultimately, UTIs bring many of the same symptoms as dementia, including delirium, memory problems, confusion and disorientation. Due to these similarities, UTI symptoms may be mistaken for dementia.

UTIs can cause dementia-like symptoms and exacerbate dementia symptoms in older adults who already have the syndrome. Patients with dementia and a UTI may experience a sudden increase in confusion, as well as a decrease in cognitive function.

What Should You Do If You Suspect a UTI?

Due to the connection between a UTI and memory loss, it can be difficult for an elderly patient to receive the right diagnosis. Someone with a UTI may be misdiagnosed with dementia, while the UTI symptoms of a patient with dementia might be swept under the rug.

If someone does have a UTI, it’s important they get diagnosed and treated accordingly. When ignored, UTIs can cause serious health problems, including kidney infections. This may lead to increased pain, nausea and confusion, as well as fevers and chills. To avoid these problems, it’s best to treat UTIs early.


Confused senior man lying on his bed caused by UTI.


How Do You Diagnose and Treat a UTI?

The easiest way to diagnose a UTI is through a urine test. After analyzing a urine sample in a lab, health care providers can detect bacteria and any possible infections. There are two main types of UTIs:

  • Simple UTI
  • Complicated UTI

A simple UTI is treated with a short round of antibiotics. For most patients, symptoms will resolve in three days or so. In postmenopausal women, treatment may also consist of estrogen therapy, which can help lower the chances of recurrence.

Like simple UTIs, complicated varieties are treated with antibiotics. Usually, it takes up to 2 weeks to treat the infection. In more severe cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics intravenously.

Once a UTI is treated, patients can return to their regular, day-to-day schedules. However, former patients should keep an eye out for any signs of a recurring infection. This is especially important for women — up to 44% of women experience another UTI within 6 months after an infection.

In addition to monitoring UTI symptoms, it’s important to keep track of cognitive health. While a UTI won’t cause dementia, it can impact mental wellness and worsen the condition in patients with dementia. If mental and behavioral effects continue after the UTI is treated, patients should consult a health care professional.

How Do You Diagnose and Treat Dementia?

There’s no single way to diagnose dementia. Rather, doctors rely on a variety of methods, including asking questions, evaluating medical history and conducting laboratory tests. In 60% to 80% of cases, dementia is the result of Alzheimer’s disease. Most forms of dementia (including Alzheimer’s) have no known cure. Thus, treatment consists of managing symptoms and delaying cognitive decline. Doctors may recommend the following:

  • Medication. Certain medications may help manage the side effects of dementia, such as depression or sleep problems.
  • Physical exercise. Staying physically active can improve overall health and delay the progression of dementia.
  • Memory exercises. To keep the brain engaged, patients with dementia should practice regular cognitive exercises (such as word games and reminiscence activities).

While these methods can improve dementia symptoms, they can’t eliminate the condition entirely. As dementia progresses, patients may struggle to remember faces, communicate properly and complete activities of daily living. To ensure their loved one receives the support they need, many families turn to the help of senior living communities like Chesapeake Manor.


Elderly woman drinking water concept image for preventing UTI.

Chesapeake Manor: Memory Care for Your Loved One

Are you looking for high-quality caregiving and support for an elderly loved one with dementia? Look no further than Chesapeake Manor, a leading assisted living facility in Willards, Maryland. Our home, which is nestled in the picturesque region of Willards, Maryland, creates a comfortable atmosphere where residents receive around-the-clock assisted living and memory care services.

Our services can help lessen the severity of dementia symptoms, and we cater to physical health needs. Whether a resident needs assistance navigating memory loss or is struggling with a urinary tract infection, our team is here to help. Overall, we treat our residents like family members and do our best to improve their quality of life.

Are you interested in learning more about our memory care program in Willards, MD? Schedule a tour today! We’re happy to answer questions, walk you through our home and learn more about your loved one’s unique needs.