Activities of daily living (ADLs) is a term used by healthcare professionals to refer to the basic self-care tasks an individual does on a day-to-day basis. These activities are fundamental in caring for oneself and maintaining independence. As a physician, I assess the individual’s ability or inability to perform ADLs as a way of measuring their functional status, especially that of older adults or those with disabilities.
Common ADLs include: functional mobility, such as the ability to walk and transfer in and out of a chair or bed; personal hygiene, oral care and grooming, including skin and hair care; showering and/or bathing; toileting, which includes getting on/off the toilet and cleaning oneself; dressing, which includes selecting appropriate attire and putting it on; and self-feeding. Often the seniors my group helps take care of, have certain limitations with their ADLs, forcing the family to move them to a senior living community. This can cause stress and/or anxiety to the senior but also the families involved, as the senior feels their independence is being taken away. More advanced ADLs include: housekeeping, laundry and other home care chores; driving; money management; meal preparation; moving/ changing residences; shopping for groceries and other necessities; medication management; and using the telephone or computer.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, there are 12 recognized ADLs necessary to live in co-occupation with others: home establishment and maintenance; meal preparation, including clean-up; care of others, including being able to select and supervise caregivers; communication management, includes telephone and computer usage; financial management; management and maintenance of health and health-related issues; shopping; maintaining and observing religious practices; child rearing; community mobility; pet care; and safety procedures and emergency responses.
Physicians, geriatric social workers, rehabilitation specialists and others in senior care often evaluate a person’s ability to perform ADLs as part of a functional assessment. Difficulties performing these tasks may signal cognitive decline. Occasionally seniors are able to remain in their homes with the assistance of caregivers or home health services. We advise all families to address any foreseeable decline, to prevent health related issues.
These decisions are always tailored for the individual and their families, based on the unique circumstances. Reach out to your trusted health care professional early and have the conversation to create the best outcome for your loved ones.
Hansa Medical Groupe has offices at 5250 Old Orchard Road, Suite 300, in Skokie, and in Chicago, 847-920-0902, hansamedicalgroupe.com.