UTI and Delirium in the Elderly: Can a UTI Cause Delirium?

Delirium is a serious brain condition that can place an elderly person in immediate danger. They may make choices or take actions that can increase the risk of harm to themselves. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a frequent cause of delirium, although some think that it may be an effect.

Either way, nursing home staff must take extra care to be on the lookout for and treat infections.

If not, they could be legally responsible in a nursing home negligence case. Call Jordan Law Center to learn more about your legal rights if your loved one was the victim of nursing home neglect.

What Is Delirium?

Delirium is a change to mental faculties that affect one’s thinking. Delirium is often caused by imbalances in the body, as opposed to structural damage to the brain.

When one is suffering from delirium, they may experience:

  • Disorganized thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Reduced awareness of their surroundings

Delirium can be the result of an infection or a reaction to medication and can be extremely dangerous.

A Recent Study Ties Delirium to UTIs

According to the Neurosciences Critical Care Unit and Neurocritical Care Research at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Dr. Shouri Lahiri, roughly one-third of seniors who have a UTI will suffer from some degree of confusion. Some may be more seriously impacted than others.

Dr. Lahiri’s study analyzed a group of mice. Half of the group had UTIs, while the other half did not. They were all placed in a maze. The half without UTIs freely roamed in the center of the maze while the mice who had UTIs spent much of their time on the periphery, demonstrating anxiety, a common sign of delirium.

These investigators also studied the brains of the mice infected with UTIs. They noticed changes in the structure of the brain itself.

There is a cytokine called IL-6 which tries to help the body’s immune response to fight infection.

However, too much IL-6 can also be a danger, causing some form of brain damage. IL-6 can induce changes in the neurons that are associated with delirium.

According to the researchers, early treatment can reduce the likelihood of delirium and brain damage. Some mice were treated with an anti-IL-6 antibody that reduced the chances of delirium. The same may hold true for elderly nursing home residents.

Even if the treatment exists, many nursing homes are slow to even recognize the symptoms of UTIs because of lack of care. In some cases, they do not aggressively treat these conditions, possibly leading to long-term brain damage.

Delirium Can Result from a Weakened Brain

Other research studies suggest different reasons why the elderly may suffer delirium from UTIs.

One theory is that the brain is already in a weakened state due to the effects of aging. The circulating inflammatory particles can have a greater impact on the weakened brain.

One of the reasons why UTI delirium may be difficult to detect is because the nursing home resident may already be suffering from some degree of dementia. Staff may have already drawn the assumption that any type of delirium comes from dementia, as opposed to something else.

They may not exercise critical thinking and take the time necessary to detect that something else may be wrong.

Delirium Could Cause UTIs Through Reduced Hygiene

Finally, other theories have delirium itself as the cause of UTIs. The fact that the resident is already suffering from some type of delirium can mean that their personal hygiene decreases.

There may not be enough staff to tend to the resident as often as needed to maintain hygiene. The effects of the UTI may make the already pre-existing delirium worse.

Delirium Places the Resident in Short- and Long-Term Danger

Delirium is life-threatening for nursing home residents. They may engage in dangerous behaviors because of their altered perceptions.

Residents with UTIs may suffer from a high degree of anxiety. Some may even feel the need to escape their surroundings. Many nursing home residents who attempt to leave the facility have some level of brain damage from infections.

The UTI itself can also be life-threatening. Some residents may go into septic shock because of the severity of the infection. In these cases, there is an extremely high fatality rate.

Even if the resident recovers from the UTI, there are still lingering impacts that can cut their life expectancy. One study found that 40% of nursing home residents will die within one year once they begin to experience delirium. There is an ongoing cycle in which they are more susceptible to further infections, and their delirium will grow worse.

UTIs Are Often the Result of Nursing Home Neglect

UTIs often result from nursing home negligence. Nursing home staff should frequently change and clean residents. Staffing shortages often mean that staff does not have the time to tend to the needs of individual residents. The resulting lack of hygiene can lead to a serious infection.

Slow or inadequate medical treatment can lead to a UTI becoming worse and a senior reaching the stage of delirium.

Contact a Greenville Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Today

A nursing home should be held accountable if their neglect caused your loved one’s illness or death. You can hold them legally accountable in a nursing home neglect lawsuit when you can prove that they were negligent. You need an experienced nursing home neglect attorney to get justice.

Call Jordan Law Center today to speak with a lawyer about your case. Schedule a free initial consultation with a lawyer by calling us today at 864-808-1810 or sending us a message online. Like every personal injury lawyer, we do not charge you anything for our services unless you win your case.

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