Aging In Place

10/30/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Many older adults experience an inability to accomplish the routine self-care tasks required for them to live independently. As their adult children and caregivers begin finding senior living for their loved ones, they could hear and see unfamiliar terms.

Two of those terms, ADLs and IADLs, will almost certainly come up in any discussion with a geriatrician or other professional in aging. These acronyms represent the life tasks that people must manage to live at home and be completely independent.

These terms stand for Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). Typically, older adults need to manage ADLs and IADLs if they are going to live without someone else’s assistance.

ADLs Comprise the Basics of Day-To-Day Living

ADLs are the self-care tasks that most people learn as young children. They include:

  • Eating, which means not only being able to feed oneself but also getting the nutrients to remain healthy.
  • Mobility refers to walking, climbing stairs, and transferring from a wheelchair to a bed. You might also hear the technical term “ambulating.”
  • Dressing means physically putting on clothes after having chosen the proper attire for the weather.
  • Toileting indicates the ability to get to and from the toilet, use it appropriately, and clean oneself properly. It also means recognizing the urge to use the bathroom and responding to it.
  • Bathing means washing one’s face and body and being able to get in and out of the tub or shower safely.
  • Grooming is combing hair, brushing teeth, and maintaining one’s overall personal hygiene.

For each of these ADLs, peoples’ needs can range from requiring a little help (a reminder or a small assist) to being entirely dependent on someone else to perform the task for them.

IADLs Are More Complex

Most adults learned the self-care tasks of IADLs as teens. They are more complicated since they involve intricate thinking and organizational skills. In contrast to ADLs, IADLs do not threaten the essential functions needed for independent living. Older adults could live on their own even though they might not be able to manage IADLs such as:

  • Planning and shopping for meals, which includes everything required to put a meal on the table.
  • Managing finances, including paying bills and handling financial assets.
  • Driving or arranging for transportation.
  • Doing housework and keeping up with home maintenance requirements.
  • Communicating via telephone, mail, or computer.
  • Taking medications as directed and remembering doctors’ appointments.
  • Participating in extracurricular activities, such as hobbies and socializing.

If an individual cannot perform IADLs, it might be a warning of potential problems and a sign that they may need help. Those who do require assistance might still live independently with modifications to the home, outside care, or assistive technology. Moving to a retirement community is sometimes the solution for those with IADL dependence.

ADLs Are Essential for Living Unassisted, but What About IADLs?

While activities – such as bathing, eating, using the bathroom, and walking – are all essential for survival, IADLs are not as vital. Still, they do contribute to an individual thriving as a self-reliant member of the community.

Those who struggle with IADLs are not necessarily candidates for assisted living, but they may need to hire an in-home caregiver or pay a relative to move in with them. But, depending on the level of struggle with IADLs, moving into an assisted living community might be the best option for everyone.

Why Are They So Important?

Everybody must be able to manage ADLs and IADLs, or they will need the assistance of another person. However, identifying and evaluating ADLs and IADLs typically play a crucial role in determining the care level that an older adult might need.

Most families seek financial assistance to help with the cost of a senior care facility. They often turn to Medicare or Medicaid, which uses the number of ADLs a person needs help with to decide whether they qualify for assistance. Generally, most insurers begin paying on a policy if the insured senior cannot manage at least two ADLs independently. 

Families that understand ADLs and IADLs can make better decisions regarding the type of senior housing to seek. It also helps insurers determine the coverage for which the policyholder qualifies and the most appropriate housing type.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff