A health visitor helping a sick senior woman sitting on bed at home.

What Are Activities of Daily Living?

For many older adults, it can be difficult to tell when a problem is surfacing versus when they are experiencing normal challenges associated with aging. From concerns about memory issues to problems with mobility, seniors can have a long list of questions about what to expect on their journey through their golden years.

As people age, they begin to require assistance in the basic self-care activities. This process happens at a different rate and on a different timeline for everyone. Many of the changes that cause concern are the ones that negatively impact a senior’s independence. When family members and loved ones begin to identify these changes, it is often time for a family to begin discussing senior living options.

Assessing an older adult’s ability to perform necessary daily skills will determine their physical abilities and limitations, as well as the level of care they need. While analyzing and interpreting a senior loved one’s physical challenges may seem complex and overwhelming, there are tools to help. Using the activities of daily living can help families to recognize changes and can help senior care providers to manage and adjust the level of care needed over time.

What are the Activities of Daily Living?

So, what are activities of daily living (ADLs)? And how do they impact care for seniors? One way to look at ADLs is to think of them as the basic activities a person does when getting up in the morning and preparing for the day. As a person ages, activities of daily living may become more difficult to handle on their own or may take more time to complete. Health issues, such as falls, strokes or accidents, may also affect a person’s ability to complete ADLs, which can affect a person’s overall independence and quality of life.

The term ADLs is used by care professionals to describe the basic self-care activities an individual does on a daily basis; these tasks are critical in caring for oneself and maintaining independence. A person’s ability, or lack of ability, to perform ADLs is often a deciding factor for health professionals in measuring that individual’s functional status. There are six basic activities of daily living for seniors that include:

  1. Transferring
  2. Toileting
  3. Feeding
  4. Dressing
  5. Bathing and Grooming
  6. Continence

When a person’s ADLs are being evaluated, each one of the six categories is considered on its own. A senior may be totally independent in one area but require minimal or moderate assistance in other areas. These details are taken into account when considering what type of care or rehabilitation a person requires and what type of care plan is needed.

While the activities of daily living for seniors are important, they are not the only standard to gauge a senior’s independence. The instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are the self-care tasks we usually learn during our teenage years; they require some complex thinking, as well as organizational skills. IADLs include:

  • Medication management, which includes taking medications as directed, as well as obtaining medications.
  • Managing finances, such as paying bills.
  • Cleaning and home maintenance, which includes maintaining a clean living space or a well-maintained home.
  • Doing laundry.
  • Acquiring transportation, either by driving or organizing transportation as needed.
  • Successfully managing communication, such as using the telephone and checking the mail.
  • Shopping and meal preparation, which covers every task that is required to make a meal from start to finish.

In general, older adults need to be able to manage both ADLs and IADLs in order to live independently without assistance or support from another person. Problems with ADLs and IADLs usually reflect problems with physical health and/or cognitive health. Identifying functional difficulties can help us diagnose and manage important health problems, while also helping caregivers and family members to understand the full picture of what care is needed for their senior loved one.

Supporting the Activities of Daily Living

Together, ADLs and IADLs make up the skills a person generally needs to successfully and safely live independently or can show where a senior may need additional support. At senior living communities, like Tutera Senior Living & Health Care, activities of daily living for seniors are used to create an individual care plan for each resident. Tutera is committed to creating the best possible experience for each and every resident. Tutera operates under a YOUNITE philosophy, which focuses on the resident’s needs, preferences and goals. On a daily basis, the Tutera team:

  • Enables healthy-as-possible outcomes
  • Encourages continued personal growth
  • Empowers each resident to direct and control their daily living

The purpose of creating a YOUNITE plan or a basic care plan is to promote communication and encourage a coordinated effort to provide the needed care for a senior. At Tutera, team members utilize the vast amenities, programs and support services to help each resident build a daily schedule that addresses their needs, while offering the type of fun, activities and engagement they want. Support with the activities of daily living begins at the assisted living level of care. Proactive planning in these areas increases the likelihood that a loved one will be able to live the lifestyle they have in mind throughout their senior years.

About Tutera Senior Living & Health Care

Tutera Senior Living & Health Care offers independent living, assisted living, memory care, Thrive memory care, rehabilitation and extended stay and respite programs. Tutera Senior Living is able to meet the needs of seniors and their families throughout the aging journey. Our core values of respect, integrity, hospitality and positivity drive our decisions, and our program planning ensures there are choices available for every senior’s interests and needs, creating lots of moments of joy!

Interested in finding a Tutera community near you? Try our community finder tool! You can also contact us today to ask questions or call to schedule a tour.