What Are Activities of Daily Living?

Senior woman doing laundry with caregiver

Getting older can be synonymous with slowing down. After all, being able to enjoy a leisurely pace is one of the perks of retirement. Sometimes, however, taking life more slowly can mask a diminished ability to care for yourself properly. Are you not taking out the trash because you have plenty of time to do it tomorrow, or because navigating the front steps has become a daunting challenge? It can be hard to know when it’s time for you or a loved one to get extra help. Assessing a person’s ability to manage activities of daily living (ADLs) can be a useful way to determine whether extra assistance is needed and what kinds of assistance would be most beneficial.

Identifying Activities of Daily Living

The tasks of daily living are the building blocks of self-care; managing these tasks enables a person to live independently. ADLs can be divided into three subcategories.

1. Basic Activities of Daily Living

Basic activities of daily living (bADLs) include most of the routine tasks involved in getting ready for the day. These basic daily tasks can become more challenging due to physical limitations, cognitive decline or mood disorders like depression, which can sap a person’s motivation to perform basic self-care tasks. Examples of bADLs include:

  • Getting in and out of bed or getting into and out of a chair
  • Going to the bathroom, including getting on and off the toilet and cleaning yourself
  • Bathing, showering, and washing your face and hands
  • Personal hygiene tasks such as brushing and flossing your teeth, shaving, applying and removing makeup, and keeping fingernails and toenails groomed
  • Getting dressed and undressed, and choosing clothing appropriate for the weather and the day’s activities
  • Preparing and eating simple meals and snacks
  • Walking or climbing stairs
  • Responding appropriately to safety alerts such as smoke alarms and tornado warnings

2. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

These activities, also known as iADLs, are more complex than basic activities, but are vital to a person’s ability to live independently. Often, these are the tasks that can be most easily supported by hiring outside help. Examples of iADLs include:

  • Meal preparation and cleanup
  • Driving
  • Grocery shopping and running errands
  • Managing medications
  • Cleaning and doing basic chores like laundry
  • Managing finances
  • Using the telephone or other communication devices
  • Setting up appointments for medical care or household maintenance

3. Domestic Activities of Daily Living

Although not necessary to live, domestic activities of daily living (dADLs) can be necessary to live well. As dexterity, balance and eyesight diminish, some dADLs become more difficult. Examples of dADLs include:

  • Hobbies like embroidery or woodworking that require fine motor skills
  • Physical exercise
  • Mental exercises like crosswords and puzzles
  • Caring for a pet
  • Socializing and participating in community activities

When Is Extra Help Necessary?

It’s not easy to admit to needing help, and many seniors prefer to hide their declining abilities. Here are some signs that could indicate that extra assistance is needed:

  • Poor personal hygiene or grooming
  • A change in eating habits or weight loss
  • Minor but frequent fender benders
  • Messy, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
  • Frequent falls or unexplained cuts and bruises
  • Concern expressed by friends or neighbors
  • Misuse of medication
  • A lack of organization such as unpaid bills, unopened mail, missed appointments or double-paying bills
  • Less inclination to participate in activities and hobbies

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult a doctor who can determine the cause of these changes and what types of assistance would be most appropriate.

Assisted Living Supports Independence

The aging process affects everyone differently. Some seniors need help with many tasks of daily living and others need a helping hand in just a few areas. In addition, needs can change over time. Communities like Legacy Pointe at UCF offer all levels of care, including assisted living, where residents can get support with ADLs in all three categories so they can be as independent as possible. Staff members are available to lend a hand with basic ADLs like dressing and grooming, if needed. Multiple dining venues and our mail center offer easy alternatives for iADLs like meal preparation and running errands. Plus our art studio, game room, and lecture series ensure that residents have many opportunities to stay engaged and inspired through dADLs. What’s more, Legacy Pointe at UCF offers lifecare, so if independent living residents’ health care needs change, they have a long-term care plan in place ensuring priority access to the on-site care they need. Contact us to find out more about assisted living at Legacy Pointe at UCF.

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