Learn How to Assess Activities of Daily Living

As we age, health or mobility issues can make daily tasks like getting out of bed, showering, brushing your teeth, making breakfast, or getting dressed more challenging.

Understanding Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Dr. Sydney Katz, a pioneering researcher and physician, developed a tool called the Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living, or Katz ADL. This assessment tool evaluates functional abilities across six specific categories known as Activities of Daily Living:

  1. Bathing: Can a person bathe independently, including washing their hair and grooming tasks like brushing teeth and trimming nails?
  2. Dressing: Can they get their clothes out of a closet or a drawer? Can they select and put on clothes, manage fasteners like zippers and buttons, and choose appropriate outfits based on the weather?
  3. Transferring: Can they move in and out of bed, sit down, stand up from a chair, and walk independently?
  4. Toileting: Can they undress, use the toilet, clean themselves, and wash their hands without assistance?
  5. Continence: Can they control their bladder and bowel movements or manage incontinence?
  6. Feeding: Can they feed themselves, including the ability to chew and swallow? Note that this doesn’t include food preparation. 

Continuing care retirement communities offer assisted living options where residents can receive assistance with these core activities of daily living.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Additionally, some more complex activities, known as Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), provide insight into a person’s overall health and well-being. These activities are not essential for daily functioning but are important for independent living:

  1. Ability to communicate using a telephone
  2. Shop for groceries and other essentials
  3. Cook and prepare meals
  4. Housekeeping tasks and tidying up spaces
  5. Doing laundry
  6. Handle transportation or drive themselves safely
  7. Responsible for managing their medications
  8. Able to manage their finances, paying their bills on time, keeping track of their income and expenses

Signs Assistance Might be Needed

Often, family members or spouses notice when a loved one requires additional support.

It may be difficult to detect subtle changes — conversely, it may take a crisis, like a sudden fall or hospital stay, to realize the gravity of the situation.  

What to Watch for:

  • Noticeable weight loss: It may be because your loved one isn’t eating enough or isn’t eating nutritious foods. Or there isn’t enough food in the house for them to eat. They also may be struggling to cook meals for themselves.
  • Untidy living spaces: Perhaps your loved one is unable to clean up because they can’t get around their home as easily as they once did. The lawn may be unmowed or garbage may be piling up because they can no longer manage their environment.
  • Poor personal hygiene: If your loved one has dirty hair, body odor, or a decline in grooming habits, they may not be able to bathe themselves, or they’re struggling with incontinence and are embarrassed to ask for help.
  • Unkempt appearance: If they wear stained clothing, they may find it too difficult to dress or undress themselves each day or complete tasks such as laundry.

When these signs accumulate, it may indicate that your loved one needs support from an assisted living community. Rather than waiting for a crisis, research options and involve your loved one in the decision-making process.