There are things people do every day that most of us take for granted. Things like getting dressed, bathing, eating, and the like. You can hear these tasks referred to as ADLs or activities of daily living, particularly when referring to retirement age adults who may be lacking in cognizance or the ability to do what they once did. If you have a loved one who is having difficulty with eating, getting dressed, and more, you may already be assisting them in a caregiver role. To determine the level of care needed by a retirement age adult – and their ability to carry them out – ADLs are often looked at.
With no medical jargon to confuse you, let’s take a look at activities of daily living and what you need to know about them.
As long as humans have been around, so have ADLs. In the 1950s, however, at Cleveland, Ohio’s Benjamin Rose Hospital, a team led by Dr. Sidney Katz precisely defined “activities of daily living”. To better evaluate the ability of independent function where patients were concerned, certain activities were monitored. These were as follows:
- Continence and toileting
Though the list doesn’t stop there, when it comes to basic activities of daily living, the above listed are what is used.
Additional Important Aspects
It seemed to Dr. Katz and his team that certain aspects of everyday life still considered important were missing from the above-stated list, particularly when trying to determine the ability for independent function. Thus, the IADL (instrumental activities of daily living) list was devised. The team felt that, to assess functional health tasks (like handling finances or socializing), they needed more than what was being assessed by simple “life maintenance” tasks (like bathing and eating).
The following tasks are included in the IADL scale:
- Ability to handle finances
- Taking medications responsibly on their own
- Some mode of transportation
- Laundry and housekeeping
- Food preparation
- Shopping on their own and using the telephone
These, though improved from the prior list, were lacking in some areas. For example, when these were used 50 years ago, due to social norms at the time, the ability to prepare food, do laundry, shopping, etc. weren’t used to measure a man’s IADLs. For this reason, and more, the duo of Lawton and Brody updated the list to include the following:
- Laundering clothing
- Using public transportation or driving
- Performing housework
- Managing finances and money
- Using the telephone for communication
- Medicine management
The Importance of ADLs
Should you notice your loved one’s overall health declining, to help determine what level of care would be appropriate, ADLs will be used. As an example, depending on the assessment, you would be better informed as to whether your aging loved one would need long-term care or assisted living.
Assisted living would apply to people who have a problem with ADLs numbering approximately one or two. On the other hand, long-term care would be more appropriate for people having difficulty with numerous ADLs. Additionally, for those with cognitive or physical impairments, more extensive care is needed, such as that offered in long-term care or memory care communities.