Image illustrating various activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), essential for understanding caregiving needs and independence levels.

An Essential Guide to ADLs and IADLs

If you’re familiar with Senior Living, Assisted Living, or even Occupational Therapy, you’ve most likely heard the terms “Activities of Daily Living” and “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living.” However, to most people, these terms are probably unknown. 

If you are a family caregiver or are beginning your search for senior care for a loved one, it can be beneficial to familiarize yourself with these terms and how they relate to aging, independence, and Assisted Living. 

Assisted Living Locators of Long Island is a Senior Living Placement service offering guidance and support to families on Long Island seeking Assisted Living or Memory Care. We’re sharing some insight on what ADLs and IADLs are, how assistance is determined, and how to access your family member’s independence level. 

What Are Activities of Daily Living?

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are the basic tasks that a person needs to be able to accomplish on their own to live independently. We learn these tasks when we are small children, and they become second-nature as we grow older. However, at a certain age, these tasks can become challenging to complete effectively and efficiently. A survey by the CDC indicates that 8.5% of adults ages 75-84 need some or all assistance with ADLs, while 21% of those over 85 do. 

According to Dr. Sidney Katz, there are six basic ADLs essential to functional living, including: 

  • Bathing and Grooming: The ability to bathe oneself and maintain basic hygiene
  • Dressing: The ability to select appropriate clothes and dress oneself
  • Toileting: The ability to get on and off the toilet without assistance 
  • Feeding and Eating (Excluding Meal Preparation):  The ability to bring food from plate to mouth, chew, and swallow 
  • Continence: Having control over one’s bladder 
  • Mobility and Transferring: The ability to move in and out of a bed or chair unassisted 

Dr. Katz also created an Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living to determine an older adult’s degree of dependency and overall health status. This index looks at each activity as a spectrum of independence to dependence. For example, some individuals may complete the task with no assistance, others may require minimal assistance such as physical support or reminders, while others still may need comprehensive direction and support. 

Accessing a senior’s ability to complete ADLs successfully can not only be beneficial in certain government assistance programs like Medicaid and veteran benefits, but it can help determine which level of care and assistance is appropriate for an individual. Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities can provide residents with as much or as little assistance with ADLs as needed. 

What Are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

In contrast to ADLs, instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are unnecessary for functional living. Still, they can significantly improve the quality of life and allow a person to live successfully on their own. IADLs are the tasks that we typically learn as young adults and require more complex thinking, organization, and planning skills than ADLs. A deterioration in instrumental activities of daily living performance can often indicate a decline in cognitive health

Like Dr. Katz’s index, there is a similar index to measure the functionality of IADLs. According to the Lawton-Brody Scale, IADLs include the ability to: 

  • Use Communication Devices Such as the Telephone or Computer 
  • Take Care of All Shopping Needs 
  • Plan, Prepare, and Serve Meals 
  • Maintain Home and Complete Housekeeping Tasks 
  • Manage Personal Finances 
  • Travel Independently on Public Transportation or in a Personal Car

Also akin to the ADL Index, the Lawton-Brody Scale works on a spectrum and takes into account any range of abilities. 

The Importance of ADLs and IADLs

Accessing both ADLs and IADLs can be useful to family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. By determining your family member’s abilities to complete fundamental tasks, you can answer specific questions regarding their well-being, such as: 

  • Even though she convinces me she is fine, how is Mom really faring?   
  • Would it be helpful for me to check on Mom/Dad regularly? 
  • Is it even safe for Mom/Dad to continue living independently? 
  • Should we consider Assisted Living? 

Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities are ideal for adults who are beginning to require more assistance with ADLs and IADLs. Not only do Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities deliver professional and considerate support with ADLs and other personal care needs, but they also offer a lifestyle that supplements IADLs, as well. For example, these communities provide meals, maintenance, and transportation, all but eliminating residents’ need to worry about most IADLs.

If you have a family member who is beginning to require additional assistance with ADLs or IADLS, it could be time to consider Assisted Living or Memory Care. Assisted Living Locators of Long Island is a local Senior Living Placement service that works with families in Nassau County and Suffolk County to find the right community for them. 

If you are interested in learning more about our free services, contact us today!