February 26, 2021
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What are the ADLs – How Caregivers May Assist

Activities of Daily Living or ADLs are the routine tasks needed to take care of one's self. The IADLs or Instrumental Activities of Daily living are more complex and involve tasks needed to live independently and operate within the community.

An elderly person's ability to carry out day to day activities efficiently is the starting point to establish whether they require long term care to assist them with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living).  

When they get to a point that they are unable to complete their essential activities, it is time to assess how much help they need. It is also a good time to consider the future, as help required will likely increase with time.

ADLs are very important to seniors' wellbeing as they need to be able to dress, make use of the bathroom, prepare meals, do housework, and remember to take their medications. This is the starting point for living independently.

Initially, only a little help may be required. Often people are still capable of completing their ADLs, but it may not be efficient. Time is the limiting factor, not ability. Assistance with more time intensive activities such as meal prep and/or laundry may allow for increased independence with all other activities.

What are some of the Activities of Daily Living?

Drawing answering the question "What are the ADL's?"
Activities of Daily Living

There are 5 ADL's and 7 IADL's.


  • Feeding  
  • Personal hygiene  
  • Toileting  
  • Dressing  
  • Transferring or being able to walk independently  

  • Transportation
  • Shopping
  • Medication management  
  • Taking care of household duties  
  • Preparing meals  
  • Communicating (phone, email, text etc.)  
  • Taking care of finances  

The IADL's are likely to require assistance prior to ADL's. They take longer to complete and require more planning and higher level cognition.

A few hours of assistance per week may be enough initially to reduce the burden of self care on your loved one and allow them to maintain their functional independence within the home and community.

As difficulties with ADLs increase, so will the amount of supervision or hands-on care needed to ensure an older person lives comfortably.   

For each of the above-listed ADL categories, people's needs will vary regarding how much help they need. They may require part-time or full-time assistance by an in-home caregiver. An occupational therapist and physical therapist would be able to make recommendations regarding level of assistance required.

IADLs Requiring Assistance by In-House Caregivers

There are certain instrumental activities of daily living tasks that we have completed all our lives, but find these become more of a strain to keep up with as we age. Below are examples of assistance that can be provided by family or a caregiver.   

Some of these include:  

  • Managing financial assets and the paying of bills.  
  • Meal preparation and shopping. This would include taking their meals to them and shopping for house hold items and other necessities.   
  • Driving the elderly person to appointments. Medical, dental, hair appointments etc.  
  • Light home maintenance and cleaning. Including cleaning up after meals and keeping the loved one's personal living space clean and tidy.   
  • Assisting with mail collection and answering the telephone.  

Catering to ADLs Through Assisted Living or In-Home Care  

What are the ADLs? Woman starts with window cleaning

It can be difficult to determine how much care is needed as people tend to try to hide their deficits. Careful observation and planning ahead will set your loved one up for success and give them the care needed.

Below is a brief rundown of two different options.  For more in depth information check out Aging in Place vs. Step up in care model.

In-Home Assistance for ADLs  

Families will more often than not hire home health workers to assist with an ADL when their loved ones need some help with tasks, but do not require total care.

The carers would render assistance by administering medication, shopping, and going along when your elderly loved one goes for a walk. Health insurance many cover some of the expenses. Check with their provider. Skilled services provided for ADLs training through physical or occupational therapy may also be covered when ordered by their primary care physician.

Getting care at home is usually the first option. Seniors who are able remain within their own homes live much happier and healthier lives. It is also more economical. The fewer ADLs require assistance, the less it should cost for a caregiver. In-home care can provide either temporary (respite care) or on a more consistent basis.   

Assisted Living for Seniors  

Assisted living facilities (ALFs) offer a combination of personalized support services, meals and residential housing. However, they do not include skilled nursing care. ALFs offer services designed for older adults who may need help with medication reminders and housecleaning while having the security of personal assistance 24/7. Meals are generally provided as well as transportation services and other community programs.   

Professional Caregivers Benefits  

There are numerous advantages to enlisting the services of trained caregivers for seniors. As a whole, the caregivers are able to provide the help needed when family is unable to do so.   Professional caregivers can also provide invaluable advice that includes steps to safeguarding the elderly person's home to prevent them from falling.   

With a small investment from family members or the person concerned, their home can be more comfortable and safer to use.   

Modification Ideas to Assist with ADLs  

Home safety is the number one concern for elderly people who wish to live independently. Even in the case of in-home care, certain home modifications will improve activities for daily living and ensure the person cared for is safe. As people get older, the possibility of falling increases and prevention of falling become much more important.

Bathroom safety is just as important as there are various sharp corners and hard surfaces around. All it takes is a few modifications to make certain elements more senior-friendly.  

It pays to consider in-home care where comprehensive support is needed by seniors and disabled individuals who require assistance with ADLs. Caregivers make a huge difference in this regard. 

For a free copy of 11 Common Fall Hazards in the Home and Solutions
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That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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