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Activities of Daily Living (ADL): What Are They and Why Are They Important for Senior Care?

As we age, we all make adapt to challenges presented us by the aging process.  It may start with things like reading glasses or hearing aids, and can progress to include assistance with tasks referred to as ‘instrumental activities’ of daily living (IADL’s) such as shopping, cooking and upkeep of our home, or activities of daily living (ADL’s) like bathing, dressing, toileting and transferring in and out of chairs and beds.

A senior’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) is the basis for how a long-term care insurance company, home care agency, or assisted living community assesses the level of care your loved one needs.

What Are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

ADL is a commonly used term in senior care. It refers to life-sustaining (not saving) activities that people do every day including eating, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, continence, and mobility.

A senior’s ability to perform ADLs might not be similar across all six areas. Your mother may need help with mobility but might be able to perform other tasks independently. Having an assessment done will help identify the level of care she requires and the support services that need to be included in her care plan.

Why Are ADLs Important?

Your parent’s ability or inability to perform ADLs doesn’t just determine the level of care they require but also alert you to physiological changes that may be happening. Recognizing and reacting to the need for assistance with an Activity of Daily Living is critical failure to do so can lead to complications for them such as malnutrition, feelings of isolation, accidents, poor personal hygiene, and even urinary tract infections.

ADLs and Insurance Coverage

ADL assessments are also used to prove eligibility for many elder care benefit programs and long-term care insurance. For example, Medicaid requires elderly patients to qualify for nursing home care, which in turn is determined by how much assistance the senior needs with ADLs.  For most Long Term Care Insurance policies claims can only be triggered by a need for help with a prescribed number of ADL’s.

Though Medicare doesn’t directly cover ADL assistance, Medicare PACE programs cover most ADLs as part of eldercare. Some Medicare Advantage plans also include in-home assistance with ADLs to help delay nursing home placements.

How Are Activities of Daily Living Measured?

Though ADL metrics can be assessed at home, caregivers might not always be able to give an accurate picture of their loved one’s functional capabilities since they are too close to the situation. Also, caregiver burnout can make you underplay or overplay your parent’s ability to carry out ADLs. As such, it’s always best to get a complete ADL assessment from a specialist.

Consider visiting your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). They can provide you with referrals to providers, and in some cases, will even be able to provide functional assessments for your loved ones.

If you notice any changes in your loved one’s functional capabilities, even if they are minor, look into getting them an ADL assessment. The earlier you can assess their abilities, the higher your chances of finding solutions to improve your loved one’s safety and independence.  It also establishes a baseline to identify changes in condition and signs of decline.

At Oasis Senior Advisors, we know how difficult it is to find the right care options for the people you love. That’s why we offer compassionate, experienced, and unique solutions for your loved ones so you know they are getting the best care possible. To learn more, call us at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or fill out this online form today.

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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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