What are Activities of Daily Living?

What are Activities of Daily Living?

Anyone who has a family member challenged by a health or cognitive issue may hear the term ADLs and wonder, 'what are activities of daily living?' ADLs, or activities of daily living, are the basic tasks that often prompt the need for in home care services, help with basic routines that make people comfortable and safe in their home.   There are primary activities of daily living, and then there are incidental activities of daily living.  First, let's address the more important primary activities of daily living, the most basic self-care tasks. 

There are six main categories of Activities of Daily Living - ADLs:

1. Dressing & Grooming

2. Feeding (eating and drinking)

3. Bathing & Showering

4. Ambulating, Mobility

5. Transferring 

6. Toileting (continence)

When a home care agency is brought in to provide assistance with ADL's or activities of daily living, a plan of care is typically created based on the clients strengths, needs and preferences.  Questions such as how often the elderly or compromised client wishes to bathe are important.  Is the client able to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair, or can he/she ambulate to get down the hall? Is mobility compromised so much that a Hoyer lift may be needed?   

Many long term care insurance policies are activated once the home care client needs help with two or three activities of daily living.  An in home caregiver will document that those activities are performed each shift in a daily log that is transmitted to the insurance company to ensure the client receives coverage payment. 

Activities of Daily living are critical for our personal heath, hygiene, nutrition and well-being.   Incidental activities of daily living are the other more complex tasks that give our life greater meaning and outreach. 

Here are 8 categories of incidental activities of daily living, or IADLs. 

1. Use of telephone 

2. Preparing meals

3. Housekeeping

4. Managing money

5. Managing medication 

6. Shopping

7. Laundry 

8. Driving 

It's common that people who are experiencing a loss of independence due to age or health related factors will see a decline in the ability to perform IADLs first.  It's more complex to plan, shop for and prepare a meal than it is to simply bring the food to your mouth to take a bite.  It's more complex to manage money than to pull on a pair of pants.  Losing the ability to complete IADLs is unfortunately not usually a trigger for long term care insurance coverage.  

However, the need for in home care services may be noticeable when the inability to complete incidental activities of daily living, such as driving, show up, and could lead to another trigger for long term care insurance, constant safety monitoring. 

The term constant safety monitoring means that someone is unable to complete regular tasks or use good judgement while alone, a common effect of Alzheimer's/dementia and a good need for in home care services, even if the person can still manage to dress, feed, and groom themselves. 

Other benefits of in home care services include fall prevention, medication management, Alzheimer's/dementia care, elder safety and quality companionship with an in home caregiver.  

A comprehensive plan of care is a worthwhile way to evaluate a person's functional ability to handle ADLs and IADLs and can lead to patient centered care in the home that enhances a loved one's quality of life at home. 

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