What are ADLs, and Why Do They Matter?

Senior lady getting out of the car, caregiver helping her, holding her hands.

If you’ve started your senior living search, you may have come across the term ADLs or activities of daily living. ADLs encompass a range of essential tasks a person must perform to maintain independence, health, and safety. These tasks serve as indicators of a person’s physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning.

Many of us don’t give much thought to ADLs or the ability to complete them. However, they gain significance when evaluating the well-being of older adults, as a person’s abilities can change with age. 

There are two categories of activities of daily living: basic ADLs (ADLs) and Instrumental ADLs (IADLs). Both consist of activities that paint a comprehensive picture of an individual’s ability to live a safe, healthy, and independent lifestyle. 

Our team at Peaceful Pines Senior Living is exploring these activities to help you better understand how they impact a person’s independence.

Basic Activities of Daily Living

Basic ADLs include the fundamental abilities needed to manage basic physical needs and include:

  • Personal hygiene – Getting dressed, bathing, and showering
  • Eating – And feeding oneself (not including cooking and prep) without assistance
  • Mobility – The ability to independently walk and move from one place to another, including getting in and out of bed or a chair
  • Toileting – The ability to use a toilet and cleaning oneself without assistance

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

In addition to ADLs, there are also IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) which are tasks that require organizational skills, problem-solving skills, and planning to allow a person to manage their life independently without assistance. According to the Lawton-Brody scale, these include:

  • Cleaning and housekeeping, including maintenance and other home-care chores
  • Managing money and decisions related to finances 
  • Managing medications and taking medicines as directed
  • Preparing meals, including shopping for groceries and other necessities
  • Transportation, including changing residences and moving
  • Using communication devices, including the telephone or computer

These tasks require a higher level of performance versus ADLs. In addition, there are other types of IADLs to consider. For instance, if an older adult has a pet, are they able to provide appropriate pet care (feeding, walking, managing and attending vet appointments, etc.)? 

How ADLs Impact Your Senior Living Decision 

If an older adult is considering senior living, ADLs and IADLs should be assessed to determine the appropriate lifestyle option and level of care. For example, if a person needs support with ADLs or is unable to complete one or more on their own, assisted living would be the ideal choice. These communities offer the services and amenities individuals need to maintain their safety and independence. 

On the other hand, independent living may be a better option for those who can successfully manage ADLs and IADLs but want to lead a more active, maintenance-free lifestyle. And, if their needs or abilities change, they can transition into assisted living to maintain their lifestyle but get the support they need. 

Furthermore, a person living with dementia or another memory impairment may need support with ADLs and IADLs as their condition progresses. Memory care communities assist with activities of daily living, as well as provide specialized programming and opportunities for those living with dementia.

“Once health care providers have assessed [a person’s] ability to perform ADLs and IADLs, they can design an appropriate care plan to compensate for [their] deficiencies and provide adequate help. For example, occupational therapists can recommend exercises to improve [mobility] and minimize the risk of falls (WedMD).”

Activities of daily living encompass a range of fundamental activities necessary for maintaining independence and overall well-being. Assessing an individual’s ability to perform ADLs provides critical insights for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and family members, enabling the development of tailored care plans and support. 

In addition, regular evaluation of ADLs allows for proactive adjustments to support services, contributing to enhanced independence for individuals across various stages of life and health.

Our Peaceful Pines Senior Living continuing care communities are built to meet the needs of older adults during all stages of life. Whatever the next chapter of life looks like, we offer the community and support you need. We invite you to contact Peaceful Pines Senior Living today to learn more about our senior living communities, care, and services. 

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