ADLs and IADLs – Why Knowing About Them Matters

Forget IMO, BTW and FOMO and the multitude of mundane acronyms out there. I’d like to introduce you to two important ones you need to know about, especially if you’re talking with later life living communities or in-home care companies. They are ADLs and IADLs, meaning Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, respectively.

Preparing meals is an IADL (Instrumental Activity of Daily Living)
Preparing meals is one of the IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living).

They comprise the basic tasks of everyday life, and allow us to maintain our health and wellness independently. As you’ll see, the key difference between ADLs and IADLs is that ADLs represent basic self-care tasks, while IADLs focus on more complex abilities.

The Differences Between ADLs and IADLs

Activities of Daily Living

  • Eating
  • Breathing
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Mobility
  • Grooming
  • Doing housework and keeping your house in order
  • Keeping up with basic home maintenance

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

  • Managing your finances
  • Managing your transportation
  • Shopping
  • Preparing meals
  • Communicating using a telephone or other device
  • Managing your medications
  • Doing your own laundry

When we’re younger, most of us accomplish these daily tasks with such ease that we don’t realize how complicated they really are. But they can become increasingly difficult as we age.

Consider what it takes to prepare a meal (IADL #4). First, you usually need to complete another IADL – shopping (#3). Then you’ll need to see and read the recipe, as well as comprehend it. There are also measuring ingredients and the subtle movements associated with that. Then you have to manage the heat of a stove or oven, and then eventually be able to eat (ADL #1) what you’ve prepared.

When you break them down like that, these activities are much more complicated than we realize.

Thanks to technology, though, some ADLs and IADLs can be managed despite physical limitations. All it takes is a cell phone to employ a house-cleaning service, in-home care, and delivery services for meals and groceries.

How Needs are Determined

Who determines whether these needs are being met? Not family members, though they often have strong opinions about their loved ones. But only doctors and other skilled professionals can officially identify the need for assistance.

Caregiver assisting senior with walker.
ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) include mobility.

If it’s determined support is called for, this is when you call your insurance broker and tap that long-term care insurance policy you wisely invested in. Unless you didn’t purchase a policy, in which case you’ll be upset with your past self for not doing so.

There still may be a small ray of sunshine if you didn’t (though if you’re less than 60 years old, please get a policy now). You may be eligible for financial assistance from Medicaid, MediCal and/or veterans’ benefits. There are experts within the Later Life Living community who have a strong understanding within their respective fields of how to access and take advantage of these programs.

Having a strong understanding of ADLs and IADLs means you’ll speak the same language as communities, care managers and other later life professionals. Knowing their shorthand also means you’ll have a stronger understanding of the alternatives available to you – and you’ll feel much more confident about the choices you make.

Let us help you find a Professional who fits your needs!

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About: Marty Stevens-Heebner

An award-winning entrepreneur, designer and author, Clear Home Solutions’ CEO Marty Stevens-Heebner and her staff of experts work with older adults and their families when their treasures, paperwork and “stuff” get in the way of moving their lives forward. Clear Home Solutions is where compassion meets know-how, thanks to her hard-working staff of experts. They tackle moves, downsizing and organizing, as well as professional home inventories, managing all the logistics and stress so their clients don’t have to.

Marty was inspired to launch Clear Home Solutions 8 years ago after her experiences with her 90-year-old father and her 88-year-old aunt with dementia. She’s the President-Elect of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers (NASMM), and Clear Home Solutions was the first nationally accredited company in her industry in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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