What are the Activities of Daily Living?

Posted on June 22nd, 2018 by John OKeeffe

When you start looking into senior care for your loved one, undoubtedly, you will come across ADLs or the Activities of Daily Living. This term is frequently used to identify what level of care your senior needs.

There are six main components to the activities of daily living. They are:

  1. Eating
  2. Bathing
  3. Dressing
  4. Toileting
  5. Continence
  6. Transferring

Your elder’s ability or inability to perform these daily functions helps doctors, nurses, and in home caregivers understand the severity of their condition and the type of care they need to not only survive but also maintain a quality of life.

  1. Eating

Eating is the ability to feed yourself. If your loved one can prepare food (chopping vegetables, cooking and baking, and eat using silverware and utensils), then they don’t need assistance in this regard. However if cognitive impairment or physical deterioration causes your loved one to need assistance feeding themselves, then this would be an ADL they need assistance with. Additionally, this is not limited to meal preparation either as some people need intravenous feeding or assistance with a feeding tube.

  1. Bathing

Personal hygiene is important for keeping your body free of viruses and bacteria. If your loved one needs help bathing, shampooing, getting into (and out of) a bathtub or shower, then they are dependent on another person for this ADL as well.

  1. Dressing

Although this does pertain to getting dressed in clothes, that’s not the only aspect that will make an elder dependent. Even if your loved one is mentally capable of dressing themselves, if they need assistance attaching a back brace or artificial limb, this is considered a part of dressing. Any additional help required to be fully dressed qualifies as needing assistance.

  1. Toileting

This refers to your loved one’s ability to get to and from the toilet as well as their ability to perform the necessary hygienic tasks involved. If your elder cannot do this on their own, then they will be considered dependent for this activity of daily living.

  1. Continence

Continence is more than control over your bladder and bowels, it also includes caring for assisted medical items such as catheters or colostomy bag. Even if your elder has the mental capacity to understand what’s needed, if they need help then they are considered dependent for this ADL.

  1. Transferring

This includes bodily mobility – i.e. not including driving or cycling, etc. If your elder requires assistance to get out of bed, get into bed, or transfer from a wheelchair to a chair (and vice versa) then they are considered dependent.

              Long Term & Short Term Assistance with the Activities of Daily Living

Needing assistance with the activities of daily living does not inherently mean someone is mentally incapable. For many seniors, assistance with ADLs could be temporary while they recover from an accident or surgery. For instance, if an elder suffers a fall, breaks their hip and goes in for surgery to have it repaired, then their recovery may require assistance with transferring, toileting & continence while they heal.

Many seniors 65 and older will require some short term assistance with ADLs for one reason or another. However, long term assistance with ADLs is a possibility depending on your loved one’s health. If your elder requires help in two of the six listed ADLs, then many long term insurance companies will offer financial assistance or share the cost.

Different Care Levels for ADLs

The care they receive is further subdivided into levels of severity. There is substantial assistance, standby assistance, and substantial supervision.

Substantial assistance means you would be unable to perform the activities of daily living without the physical help of another person. Meanwhile standby assistance means you require someone nearby who can provide physical intervention while you perform tasks. Standby assistance is especially common when and elder is in physical therapy and in later stages of recovery from a surgery. Standby assistance is still considered help with ADLs, but it is identified as less severe. Last, substantial supervision means your senior requires constant monitoring from another person. Substantial supervision is a common form of assistance when a person is suffering from a degenerative cognitive condition, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. A common symptom of Alzheimer’s is wandering. Many caregivers end up needing to lock all windows, doors, and even rooms (from the outside). There are many tales of in home caregivers sleeping on the floor outside of their loved one’s door so that if they start wandering in the night, they’ll be awoken quickly. If this is a symptom of your loved one, then substantial supervision may be considered.

If you notice your loved one struggling with activities of daily living or they’re recovering from a surgery, then consider in home caregivers. Caregivers can help nurture your loved one back to full health while assisting with the activities of daily living.

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