What are ADLs?What are ADLs

Are you caring for a loved one and wondering if he or she can live independently?  Look at activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).  This is what doctors, rehabilitation specialists and others in senior care use to determine what kind of daily assistance an older person may need.

What are ADLs?

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are the basic self-care tasks that are learned in early childhood and can help determine what type of care an elderly loved one may need.  These activities include:

  • Feeding
  • Toileting
  • Grooming
  • Getting Dressed
  • Bathing
  • Walking or Moving In/Out of Bed or a Wheelchair

What are IADLs?

When evaluating if your loved one can live independently, it is also important to review the more complex skills called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).  These are typically learned in the teenage years and include:

  • Managing Finances
  • Handling Transportation
  • Shopping
  • Preparing Meals
  • Using Communication Devices
  • Managing Medications
  • Housework And Basic Home Maintenance
  • Pet Care
  • Following Safety Procedures

You can use a checklist like this one provided by PBS to evaluate your loved one’s care needs.

Finding Care Based on Your Loved One’s Needs

Once you’ve completed the checklist, you can review your answers to determine the best level of care for your loved one. Choose the best choice below to help your loved one stay as independent as possible.

Home Care

In-home care should always be considered first. Evidence shows that seniors live healthier, happier lives when they remain in their own homes, and it’s also more economical. Your loved one should be able to still perform the activities on the ADL list and some of the activities in the IADL list, particularly those that are fundamental to their well-being and continued good health. Hiring an in-home caregiver can help them fill in the gaps, so to speak.

Assisted Living

Assisted living offers a combination of residential housing, meals and personalized support services, but it does not provide skilled nursing care. Assisted living is designed for adults needing assistance with IADLs such as housecleaning and medication reminders. Meals are usually provided, and often there are transportation services and social interaction programs.

Continuing Care Residential Communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs combine the services of a nursing home with an assisted living center. Continuum of care goes beyond the traditional retirement home approach because seniors can maintain their independence and still receive the care they need. As the individual’s needs become more complex, a continuing care facility can provide those services. In addition, certain CCRC services might only be required for a limited time, such as if someone has surgery and requires additional help during the healing process.

Nursing Homes

These facilities offer higher levels of care that support individual skills and interests in an environment designed to minimize confusion and agitation. Similar to assisted living communities, nursing home facilities provide assistance with dressing, grooming, bathing and other IADLs. Meals, laundry and housekeeping are provided.

Our comprehensive senior care directory is a great free resource you can use to identify facilities that offer services based on your loved ones ADLs and IADLs evaluation.


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