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Activities of Daily Living Are Where Assisted Living Can Help

When you or a loved one moves to assisted living or a similar community, it’s usually because of difficulty with some Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). A caregiver performs these typically non-medical duties to help a resident with the basics of everyday life. That lets the resident live as independently as possible.

Most ADLs are basic self-care tasks that you learn as a child – bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom, etc. However, don’t confuse them with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), which are similar but require more complex skills. Learn more about the two different kinds of activities of daily living below.

woman having shoe tied, to illustrate activities of daily living

Dressing is one of the Activities of Daily Living.

ADLs and Living Independently

As your loved one ages, their ability to perform ADLs affects their capability to live independently. Therefore, when a medical professional or social worker evaluates your loved one to determine placement in a community, they consider ADLs because they can affect his or her ability to care for themselves.

Depending on the policy, your loved one’s health insurance should cover some or all of the cost of hiring a home health care worker to administer the ADLs. Most of these workers are state-certified nurse aides (CNAs). Insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid may also cover the cost of these services while living in a senior care community. It’s best to check with your provider for additional information.

Basic Activities of Daily Living

man being helped out of bed, to illustrate activities of daily living

Transferring – moving from a wheelchair to a bed and back – is an Activity of Daily Living.

ADLs are common throughout senior care and senior housing. Assistance with them is offered at different levels, from home health to assisted living to skilled nursing. They are routine activities that most people do every day without help. A person’s ability to perform these tasks helps determine what type of long-term care your loved one needs.

The six ADLs are typically recognized as:

Toileting: Getting on and off the toilet

Continence: Controlling your bladder and bowel functions

Bathing: Cleaning and grooming activities such as showering, shaving, and brushing teeth

Dressing: Getting dressed by yourself without having trouble with zippers and buttons

Eating: Feeding yourself without much difficulty

Transferring: Walking or moving from a wheelchair to a bed and back again

People who have problems performing Basic Activities of Daily Living will find help in assisted living communities, continuing care retirement communities, and nursing homes.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

senior man and aide looking at medicines

Managing medications is an Instrumental Activity of Daily Living.

These daily living activities are typically complex skills you need to live independently without assistance. People normally learn these IADL skills in their teens. They include:

  • Using a regular telephone
  • Handling transportation
  • Understanding and managing finances
  • Managing medications
  • Shopping for groceries, clothing, etc.
  • Cooking and preparing meals
  • Housekeeping and basic home maintenance
  • Caring for pets

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia normally have troubles with instrumental daily living activities. They will find help in memory care facilities and possibly continuing care retirement communities.

How ADLs Are Assessed

Through a functional assessment, only certain professionals can determine if your loved one needs help with ADLs or IADLs. Common evaluation tools include the Katz Index to assess Activities of Daily Living and the Lawton Scale for assessing Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. Talk with your loved one’s doctor for guidance.

Assessing these activities can help with a diagnosis and determine the type of assistance your loved one needs on a daily basis.

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  • Mary Beth Adomaitis

    About :

    Mary Beth Adomaitis a freelance writer living in Southern California. She has written about senior topics for several senior living websites. She also has a blog, Unwrinkled Hearts, which was started after her mother-in-law passed away in 2015. It focuses on elderly living in the 21st century. Mary Beth has been a writer/journalist for more than 25 years, lending her talents to companies such as The Los Angeles Times, where she also served as a copy editor and graphic designer.


    1. Linda keeley says:

      looKS for assistance living have parkinson’s

      • Hi Linda. Thank you for stopping by. I would like to help you look for assistance. Please let me know what kind of assistance you need and what city or state you are located in.

    2. Donna HARRIS says:

      My sister was diagnose as a kid that her brain functions wouldn’t go pass 12 yrs old which meant no matter how old she gets,she would still be 12 mentally,she’s 61 yrs old now and I would like to find her a place that can help her.

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