The basic ADLs include:

1. Eating
2. Bathing
3. Dressing
4. Continence
5. Using the restroom
6. Transferring (the ability to move oneself)

Elderly Woman Walking Across Street, performing ADLs

ADLs, or Activities of Daily Living, are tasks that a person performs throughout their day. As we age, our ability to remain independent is contingent upon our ability to perform ADLs. Around half of all Americans entering care facilities do so because they are unable to perform ADLs. Once someone begins to need help with some of these basic ADLs, it could mean that they are no longer safe to remain independent. Coverage for nursing costs requires that a person be unable to perform at least two basic ADLs.

Depending upon the severity of the ADL that is unable to be completed, the level of care varies. Most long-term care is not medical care, but rather assistance with ADLs and people can choose from in-home care to assisted living or a nursing home.

There is also a group of activities called IADLs, or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. IADLs include: cooking, driving, caring for pets, completing housework, using the phone or computer, shopping, managing finances, and keeping track of medication. Oftentimes, people who are unable to perform one or more IADLs can still remain independent with a little bit of outside help. This help could come from adult children or from a home health worker or aid. IADLs are the activities that keep a person independent and maintain quality of life, but are not necessarily life threatening if unable to be performed. For example, it is far less detrimental if someone can no longer drive than if they can no longer transfer alone.

When deciding what type of care is best for your loved one it is best to have an honest conversation about what they can and cannot do. If certain things are beginning to become more difficult and may be impossible in the near future, then it is good to come up with a plan now rather than later. Talk to a medical social worker, placement agency, doctor, or care manager about your options.

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