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Housekeeper cleaning elderly woman's senior living apartment

Defining the Activities of Daily Living for Seniors

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are used by senior care providers to determine what type of and how much care an older adult needs. According to the National Library of Medicine, ADLs are basic tasks a person needs to be able to do on their own to live independently. Health issues and aging may make it difficult for seniors to complete certain everyday tasks that are essential to their health and safety.

An Overview of the Activities of Daily Living

According to A Place for Mom, the term “Activities of Daily Living” was first defined by Dr. Sidney Katz and his team at Benjamin Rose Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950s. Katz and his team defined the activities to evaluate patients’ ability to function independently. These assessments are still used today, and most senior care providers and health professionals group the ADLs into the following categories:

  • Dressing: The ability to dress and undress, choose appropriate clothing for the weather and to manage buttons and zippers
  • Eating: The ability to feed oneself (not including cooking)
  • Hygiene: The ability to bathe oneself and maintain dental, hair, and nail hygiene
  • Continence: The ability to control bowels and bladder or to manage incontinence independently
  • Toileting: The ability to use the toilet and get to the toilet independently
  • Mobility: The ability to walk, get in and out of bed, and into and out of a chair

An ADL assessment can help determine what level of care is right for your parent, should you notice a decline in their overall health.

For example, many people have difficulty determining the level of care appropriate for their parent, such as assisted living or skilled nursing. Generally, seniors who need help with one or two ADLs tend to be better suited for assisted living while seniors who need help with multiple ADLs would likely be better served in skilled nursing.

An Overview of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

The Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more complex tasks that require a certain amount of physical dexterity, sound judgment and organizational skills. The IADLs include the following:

  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning and housekeeping, including maintenance and other household chores
  • Managing finances, including paying bills on time and budgeting
  • Transportation, the ability to drive or use public transportation
  • Managing medications and taking medicines as directed and on time
  • Shopping for groceries and other necessities
  • Preparing meals, including making healthy food choices and preparing food safely
  • Using the telephone independently

The level of care for someone who can’t complete some or all of the IADLs is different from the care needed by someone who can’t complete basic ADLs.

Often, IADL deficiencies may be managed by different service providers, such as a meal preparation or delivery service, a housekeeper, or a money management professional. ADL deficiencies require more intensive care.

Know the Signs. Ask for Assistance.

Being aware of the signs can help you find the right care for your loved one. Our experienced team at Rose Estates is here to help. If you have any questions about ADLs or IADLs or what services may be best, we’re happy to assist. Contact us and we’ll connect you with one of our experts to get the answers you need.