How Can Urinary Tract Infections in Older Adults Be Prevented?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can urinary tract infections in older adults be prevented?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Since urinary tract infections (UTIs) in older adults are usually caused by urine that sits longer than normal in the bladder, improving the drainage of the bladder can help reduce incidences of UTIs.

Some specific ways to avoid a UTI:

  • Ask a doctor about medications. Especially in men, some medications can improve one's ability to urinate effectively. Men with prostate problems are most prone to having difficulty emptying their bladders properly, which sets them up for UTIs.

  • Promptly clean up an incontinent person and take steps to minimize incontinence. For example, try bladder training. Incontinent people are at increased risk for UTI.

  • Consider catheterization -- carefully. Some people may need to start regularly draining the bladder by inserting a catheter several times daily. This provides continuous bladder drainage. Note: These so-called indwelling catheters (often used during hospital stays) also allow bacteria to have much easier access to the bladder. Minimizing use of indwelling catheters is less convenient for hospital staff, but it has been proven to reduce hospital UTIs. When a loved one is hospitalized and has an indwelling catheter, family can help prevent UTIs by reminding hospital staff to remove the catheter if at all possible.

  • Try cranberry. Some studies have shown that cranberry, as a juice or supplement, may help prevent UTIs, especially in women -- but it's not clear if the benefit extends to older women or men. Cranberries contain a compound that helps keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Although a recent scientific review concluded that the optimal dose needed is unclear, many experts recommend 8 ounces of pure, unsweetened juice three times daily. At this dose, subjects reduced the incidence of repeat UTIs from 32 percent to 20 percent in one well-done Canadian study.

  • Urinate after intercourse. This has been shown to reduce UTIs among women generally.

Community Answers

Lindasue answered...

Thank you for this ~ less elementary and what I was looking for. I printed this off for staffers to read also. We soooo appreciate the "pros" you have and giving us caregivers access to very good information we might otherwise not have "easy" methods to locate. . . .Note: failed to mark as "helpfull" is most helpfull ! !

Ca-claire answered...

Thank you so much for this article. UTIs can be very difficult for our loved ones.