There comes a point with aging when it becomes increasingly difficult to complete normal and important daily tasks on our own. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia usually need support to manage their daily routines, activities, and tasks, but needing help to complete daily activities isn’t limited to seniors with cognitive impairment. It is very common that as we begin to age, we begin to develop a range of issues that might make it difficult for us to complete our activities of daily living, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, broken bones, arthritis, general loss of muscle tone and balance, vision and hearing loss, and medication side effects, among many others.
What are activities of daily living, and what can we do to make sure these daily tasks that serve as early warning signs don't get overlooked?
What are ADLs and IADLs?
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are the technical terms for the vital daily tasks and activities that we need to complete on a daily or weekly basis to live a healthy and fulfilled life. A healthy and independent adult should be able to complete the full range of activities in both of these categories. Once limitations begin to appear, and ADLs or IADLs begin to be neglected, long-term care becomes a viable option for providing help to complete the tasks.
Activities of Daily Living are the six essential skills that are needed to manage basic physical needs. These six essential skills include:
- Bathing: Maintaining good bathing and personal hygiene habits ensures that individuals feel relaxed, refreshed, healthy, and positive about their appearance. Bathing and personal hygiene are a vital part of a daily routine, and are the first activity that should be looked at when assessing if a loved one is capable of providing care for themselves. If their hygiene or bathing habits begin to be neglected, an in-home care providers can assist with getting in and out of the shower or tub, help with physically bathing, washing, cleaning, toweling, and preparing to leave the bathroom.
- Toileting: Being able to use the bathroom independently is obviously an important daily task, one that will show if an individual is capable of living independently. Bathrooms can be dangerous and difficult to navigate as we begin to age, so if your loved one begins to be nervous to go to the bathroom alone, has to go extremely frequently, or has difficulty physically getting on and off the toilet, an in-home caregiver might be the best choice to assist them.
- Continence: To maintain day-to-day normalcy and independence an individual should be able to control their bowels and bladder fully. This can often be an embarrassing and difficult subject to speak about, but it is important that it is addressed. The underlying causes of incontinence can sometimes be reversed if the discussion is broached honestly and early.
- Feeding Yourself: This is mostly an issue for those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, where seniors can have trouble remembering to eat at all. Severe issues can also cause severe shaking or degraded hand-eye coordination that self-feeding can become nearly impossible. In these cases, an in-home care professional can assist with feeding an individual in need of care. Even if an individual doesn't require hands-on feeding, an in-home caregiver can also be helpful for preparing healthy, nutritious, and regular meals.
- Dressing: Dressing isn’t limited to just getting clothes on, it also means dressing appropriately for day-to-day activities. Independent seniors should be able to differentiate between what should be worn for different weather patterns, as it could be dangerous to go outside under or over-dressed. Adults should be able to handle fasteners, buttons, etc on their clothes without assistance to consider this skill as a pass.
- Mobility: Functional senior mobility doesn’t necessarily mean running a marathon or going outside to shoot the basketball around. You should be able to get yourself out of bed in the morning and start your day without any major physical setbacks. Essentially, as long as you can move around your house without direct assistance, this skill is a pass overall.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more complex actions that involve important parts of day-to-day living. Examples of a few major ones include:
- Meal Preparation: Even before physically cooking a meal, the knowledge of how it is done and recalling recipes come into play. For seniors suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia, this hurdle alone may be too much to get over. Physically, you must be able to make measurements, handle hot stoves, reach into cabinets, and lift potentially heavy ingredient bags. You must also be mentally healthy enough to remember recipes and plan out nutritious and healthy meals for the day or week. What this skill boils down to is whether or not you can cook healthy food consistently enough to maintain a balanced diet.
- Housekeeping: Senior homes that are neglected for long periods of time quickly become extremely dangerous to live in. Eventually, simply walking around can become a serious hazard if you aren’t capable of simple housekeeping and cleanup. Hundreds of thousands of seniors are injured annually in falls, and illnesses that result from those falls can often be fatal. If you are unable to maintain a well-kept home, an in-home care professional to help with cleaning and maintaining the home is the best course of action.
- Transportation: Both mobility and challenges with short-term memory can make transportation a challenge for seniors. Being able to get around outside the home to buy groceries, go to the doctor, and visit family and friends are all extremely important factors in a senior’s continuing health, and they all depend on having access to safe transportation. In-home care professionals can assist you with traveling in your car, securing your trip, and making sure you get to your destination and back home safely.
Why are ADLs and IADLs Relevant?
Most doctors agree that if a person declines enough (either cognitively or physically) that they can no longer perform an ADL or IADL on their own, this should be taken seriously. It is very common that once one skill is failed the others will soon follow, unless the cause of the issue is addressed quickly. ADLs represent the first warnings of potentially serious issues, and should never be ignored.
It is important to check in with your aging loved ones regularly to assess their condition. If you begin to notice any of the vital tasks (IADLs and ADLs) that are starting to be neglected, it is time to have a discussion about in-home care. Securing in-home care from a trusted provider is the best way to ensure that the quality of life or safety of your loved one does not decline in conjunction with the loss of these day-to-day skills.
American In-Home Care and our sister companies Advocate, Douglas, and Whitsyms always refer qualified, screened care providers for home health care in Florida and surrounding areas that are compassionate and ready to help assist with activities of daily living. Contact us at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home consultation to discuss which care options are right for you and your family.