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What Are “Activities of Daily Living?”

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If you’re just starting to look for senior living options for a parent or loved one, you might come across some confusing terminology. Two acronyms you may see while researching senior living communities are activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These terms are used by healthcare professionals to determine the type of daily assistance an individual requires and which tasks they can do without assistance. Evaluating an older adult’s ADLs and IADLs helps care providers—such as senior living communities—develop personal care plans that meet the older adult’s unique needs.

But what exactly are the ADLs and IADLs, and how do you know when your loved one needs some extra help? Let’s take a closer look at what defines these terms and what you can do if your loved one needs help on a day-to-day basis.

Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living (ADLs) refer to self-care tasks that an individual does on a daily basis. There are several basic ADLs, which include:

Functional mobility: The ability to move about independently. Examples include being able to get in and out of a chair or bed without assistance.

Showering or bathing: This includes personal hygiene and grooming tasks such as shaving, brushing teeth, combing hair, and trimming nails.

Dressing: This is the ability to dress and undress oneself independently. Dressing includes making appropriate clothing decisions and being able to physically handle buttons and zippers.

Toileting: The capacity to use a restroom independently, including physically getting on and off the toilet.

Eating: The ability to feed oneself (not necessarily including cooking/preparing meals).

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are tasks that are not necessarily essential for day-to-day functioning, but that are important nonetheless. IADLs are generally more complex than ADLs and require more physical and mental dexterity. Examples of IADLs include, but are not limited to:

Household tasks: Chores like cleaning, doing the dishes and laundry, and home maintenance.

Communication: Being able to use a telephone or computer.

Medication management: Taking the right dose of medication at the right time and managing prescription refills independently.

Money management: Paying bills on time, spending within a budget, writing checks, and avoiding financial scams.

Meal preparation: Being able to shop for groceries, plan meals, cook, store food, use kitchen equipment safely, and clean up after preparing a meal.

Transportation: The ability to safely drive oneself or use public transportation.

Both ADLs and IADLs are needed for safe, independent living, so if you notice your loved one is having trouble performing these activities, it could be a sign that he or she needs a little extra support from an assisted living community. For a more formal assessment, refer to your loved one’s doctor.

What to expect in assisted living

In assisted living, older adults have customized care solutions created based on their unique needs and only receive assistance when required. This way, residents of assisted living are able to maintain their independence while still having access to impeccable care—however and whenever they need it.

Another benefit of moving to an assisted living community is the chance for residents to participate in social events, outings, and hobbies. Activity coordinators plan fun activities suited to any interest, from fitness to education to arts and crafts. By balancing expert care with fun and engaging activities, assisted living communities promote an enhanced quality of life for residents.

If you’re ready to begin exploring assisted living communities near you, researching online is a good place to start. When you’re ready, schedule a visit and bring your loved one if possible. This will allow you to ask questions, meet the care staff, and learn more about what life is really like for residents so you can find the right fit!

Written by Bethany Lutheran Village

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