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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Crazy vs UTI

Yes, they are crazy when they are filled to the brim with toxic liquid. But, if you notice your alcoholic person to be a bit more crazy than usual, there may be an additional cause. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) can also be the cause of crazy.

Most UTIs are caused from a bacterial infection called Escherichia coli (E.coli) which makes it’s home in the bowels. They are more common in women than in men. Symptoms include frequent and intense urgency to urinate with a painful, burning feeling. The condition is resolved with a course of antibiotics.

Well – that sounds simple enough. And it is simple for the normal healthy person. But when dealing with a person with a compromised immune system and already in a weakened physical state, it’s a bit more complicated.


While alcoholics may be whetting their whistle, they are actually dehydrating their bodies. Dehydration affects the acidity of urine throwing off the pH balance. The high content of sugar in alcohol generates a place for the bacteria to grow. The bacteria will spread to the bloodstream and begin it’s journey up to the brain.

The bacteria, along with other alcoholic toxins in the brain, will manifest itself with a sudden increase in confusion, memory loss, hallucinations. It often can appear as delirium; however, while delirium is caused by a sudden decrease in alcohol the UTI / delirium is caused by too much alcohol.

The short equation is: The alcohol turns to sugar. The sugar turns to bacteria. The bacteria then causes an infection. The infection enters the brain. Crazy happens.

For the past three days, Riley has needled me to change everything in his life. He wants to be the one who manages our finances. He wants us to move. He wants me to buy more cookies. He wants me to talk to him about politics. He wants bigger meals. He wants me to stop watching TV. He wants me to not have the great-grands visit. He wants me to life him into the wheelchair using my own two arms. He wants, he wants, he wants.

I could address each of his statements here on this blog, but I won’t because his wants are simply unreasonable. He is a bedridden man who is unhappy about his situation. I get it. However, his anger and insistence are new. Generally he’s a quiet man, but now he is yelling and shouting every time he sees me. To me, this is an indication of a UTI. Yes he is generally crazy, but he’s even crazier now.

I have empty his urine bag at least once a day. Lately his urine is very dark, cloudy and smells even worse than before. I’m convinced he has a UTI. I called the doctor and he has ordered a urine test. Simple. But even that turns out to be complicated.

Call the doctor. Describe what I am observing. Schedule a nurse to come take the urine test – usually takes a couple of days. Nurse arrives and removes the catheter, takes a clean sample and replaces the catheter. Nurse takes it back to the lab where it is analyzed. About a day later, I get the results. A prescription is written which I administer.
From the time I suspect he has a UTI until the time that the infection is confirmed is about four days. During that time, I’m clenching my teeth and trying to keep Riley as calm as I can without allowing him to break me down. The time lag is only because we use a visiting physician service since I cannot transport him via car.


It’s not just alcoholics that get crazier when they have a UTI. The situation is very common in senior citizens, Alzheimer’s patients, and, anyone who has health issues. So the next time you think your mother-in-law has totally gone off her rocker, she may simply have a UTI.

1 comment:

Samantha M. said...

This is all too true. As well, with my alcoholic elderly father who also has COPD, when his mood degenerates into hours of name-calling and impossible behaviors it is a clear sign that he's developed a pneumonia again.