We did not know that a Urinary Tract Infection could cause such a wide range of symptoms and memory loss. Before your Mom goes batshit crazy and winds up in the hospital like ours did, make sure you have her tested for a UTI!
How An Untreated UTI Completely Messed Up Mom
I am a caregiver not a medical person so this post is coming from the perspective of someone who had NO IDEA that a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) could cause so damn many problems!
About 6 months before the whole Mom drama happened (she had a seizure, collapsed and then was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance) we had noticed some pretty serious changes in her health and behavior.
First off she started losing A LOT of weight, like 60 pounds in a few months. While this had a variety of causes, a primary one was that UTI can cause a loss of appetite… not a little short term one like when you have a cold, but a pervasive one that that means she was literally eating nothing at all most days!
She was still living on her own at the time so we couldn't do as much as we can now that she lives with us, but we did try to get her to use Uber Eats, order ready made meal kits or even take her out to lunch.
None of that worked and she now weighs less than me (I am about 8 inches shorter than her and admittedly a wee bit overweight, but still!)
Mom has always been one to repeat her stories, but it was getting much worse!
She had to call my husband numerous times to reset passwords, called frequently to ask what time we were doing things together and forgot things FAST… one time we were on the way to a doctors appointment and she asked who were going to see … in the car, again in the parking lot, then in the elevator.
Now, as a busy Mom sometimes I feel like I might have a bit of a dementia problem (where are my glasses? oh, on my head), but this was beyond what anyone would consider “normal”.
And this is one thing that really makes me upset with us AND the medical doctors she was going to, seems like we should all have put these things together, but none of us did.
Mom has never been particularly social, but she used to like to get out and take pictures, go places with her dog, come up for family dinners and “do lunch” with me and my kids.
During that 6 months she started saying that she didn't want to drive up to our house (come to find out she had gotten lost one time and it scared the bajesus out of her). When I offered to come get her she would say she was too tired or she didn't want to come.
Most times we “made” her and she was happy once she got going, but it was like pulling teeth to get her out of her house.
Forgetting Doctors Appointments & Medicine
About 3 months before everything went to hell officially, I started going with her to her doctors appointments. We live about an hour away so it was quite a time commitment, but there was obviously something wrong.
I get that healthcare people are busy and ultimately patients are responsible for their own care, but when I really started digging into the details of her medicine and appointments there were LOTS of red flags. She wouldn't go to this doctor “because he was mean” and had cancelled at least 3 appointments with him.
She is also of the generation that doesn't ask questions at the doctor. When I got there and started asking questions it made her super uncomfortable and she apologized to the doctors a lot. But they were all happy to help and grateful that someone was paying attention.
She Lied, A LOT
This one is hard, but she really covered up a lot by lying to us (deliberately or because she forgot, I am not sure). She told us the doctors said she didn't need to go to Neurologist and to just do brain games on her iPad. She said she had gone on appointments and really had cancelled or just not shown up.
She lied to the doctors and us about how much she was eating (nothing) and how much alcohol she was drinking (a lot).
My Mother In Law is a super calm woman who isn't a big yeller and would never cause a scene. Except now she was yelling at me in the aisles of Walgreens about wanting to buy huge bottles of wine and having control over what she was drinking.
She told my son he was fat (he is not) and that my daughter dressed wrong (she said it way meaner than that).
None of that would have come out of “normal Mom's” mouth before all this happened.
All Elderly Healthcare Providers Know This
I am not sure why this is not posted on every wall of the hospital!
Once Mom got to the hospital and they diagnosed her UTI, EVERYONE we talked to was like, “yep, this happens all the time in elderly women”.
If it happens all the time why didn't we have an inkling and why wasn't that recommended to test by her regular doctors?
She was on 4-5 days of IV antibiotics to fix it and after a while started to get better-ish (we were told some of her memory loss problems will be permanent due to other causes).
What I Wish I Had Know About Elderly UTIs
So this is what I wish I had known and want to tell you… if your Mom is acting batshit crazy or even a little weirder than normal, request that they check for a UTI!
While I know that this was not the cause of all of Mom's problems, for sure it was a contributing factor that we had no idea existed! How could anyone without medical training know that lady part problems could cause memory loss… seriously?!?
Weird Behavior Can Be The Only Symptoms
As a woman who has had a UTI from time to time, I can't believe that anyone wouldn't notice the symptoms of a UTI. But come to find out many elderly women don't experience any symptoms at all when they have a UTI.
Your Mom acting weird may be the only symptom she ever exhibits!
Honestly, if I had it to do all over again I would have gotten way more concerned way earlier than I did. I would also have requested that they test her BEFORE she wound up in the hospital.
Elderly UTIs FAQS
Why Don't Elderly Women Know They Have A UTI?
How does a UTI cause memory problems? According to Harvard Health, “Anything that affects the brain may affect the ability to feel, localize, or describe pain”.
Ahhhh… her underlying dementia is messing her up with being able to sense she has pain! This showed up also in why she was fainting! She didn't notice that she got dizzy as her blood pressure dropped so she just collapsed “without warning”.
Did You Know UTI Can Cause Mental Problems?
According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, UTI is “the most frequently diagnosed infection in long-term care residents, accounting for over a third of all nursing home-associated infections. It is second only to respiratory infections in hospitalized patients and community-dwelling adults over the age of 65 years.”
So old dears get them more and they cause some serious mental problems. But how?
Functionally the medical community knows that it is a causal effect, but isn't sure exactly WHY!
Did You Know That UTIs Can Cause Personality Changes?
According to the Alzheimers Association, the people asking questions on the messages boards have titles like “Sudden decline,” “Yelling out and undressing in public” and “Manic episodes… WOW!”
Some of the changes we saw in Mom included:
- Saying Mean Things
- Super Change In Personality
- Doing Crazy Things
If your Mom has sudden personality changes for SURE get her to the doctor fast!
What Are Some Good UTI Medical Resources?
- Sudden Change in Behavior? Urinary Tract Infection Could Be the Cause – Alzheimers Org
- 6 Things You Should Know about UTIs in Older Adults – Cleveland Clinic
- Urinary tract infection in hospitalized elderly patients in the United Kingdom: the importance of making an accurate diagnosis in the post broad-spectrum antibiotic era (super nerdy but interesting) – Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy