According to a recent study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, from January-June 2017, roughly 1 in 5 adults over the age of 85 – or 21.7% – needed assistance to perform activities of daily living (ADL).
This data showcases a dramatic need compared to groups of younger seniors who were studied; in comparison, less than half of seniors aged 75-84 (8.5%) needed ADL help, while less than 1 in 6 seniors aged 65-74 (3.4%) required assistance.
Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Assistance
According to Health in Aging, activities of daily living, or ADLs as they are commonly referred to in the field of senior support, include the basic tasks of:
- Getting in and out of bed or a chair
- Using the toilet
There is a subgroup of ADLs, called Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs, which include the activities required to run a household and live independently, such as:
- Doing laundry
- Driving and using public transportation
- Handling money & writing cheques
- Using the telephone
ADL Used to Gauge Health Care Options
A person’s ability (or inability) to perform certain tasks independently are used as benchmarks when it comes to their healthcare. ADLs are key indicators of the level of care or support a person needs, as well as qualifying criteria for special programs or services such as:
- Adult Day Services
- Assisted Living
- Home Health Services
- Hospice Care
- Nursing Home Placement
Caregiver stress or burnout is also taken into consideration when creating a healthcare plan for a senior in later life, because often family members like adult children or aging spouses are either assisting or fully performing activities of daily living for their loved one.
According to Health in Aging, “this inability for self-care is a common reason why older people seek help from outsiders, move to assisted living communities, or enter nursing homes.”
With seniors living longer and with more chronic conditions than ever before, the need for support with ADL will continue to rise. In response to this growing need, the senior living industry has seen the creation of a number of assistive devices to help with ADL.
ADLs and Assistive Devices
There are many adaptive devices and specialized equipment available to help people complete basic day-to-day tasks. Often small adjustments can make a big difference in a person’s ability to remain independent and safe. Family Friendly Fun suggests a broad list of devices, including:
- Adapted Utensils: Forks, spoons and knives can be modified with large handles, stabilizers and specially placed weights to make them easier to hold and use.
- Button Hooks and Dressing Sticks: Are designed to assist in fastening clothes and reaching areas of the body without bending or straining.
- Grab Bars and Risers: Mounted bars can assist with balance and stability, while risers can add height to a chair or toilet seat to make them easier to get up and down.
- Tub/Shower Chairs: Chairs are available to fit into a tub or shower, providing stability and support.
- Long-Handled Brushes: Hairbrushes and toothbrushes can be retrofitted with a flexible, extended handle to allow easier reach.
- Shoe Horns and Sock Aids: Assist in putting on footwear without bending or straining.
How to Talk to Your Parent About ADL Help
Accepting help to perform activities of daily living, whether with an assistive device or from a caregiver is a deeply personal and sensitive experience. If you are an adult child broaching this conversation with your parent, remember to be inclusive and supportive when developing a plan.
Be aware of your loved one’s feelings and daily routine and involve them every step of the way.
Health in Aging suggests focusing on the positive perspective of how receiving help with ADL will allow them to remain independent for longer. It’s also a good idea start off slowly when integrating formal caregivers into their home by arranging for one provider to come in at a time for a limited time as a trial run.
Do you or someone you know need help with activities of daily living? What’s been most useful for them? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.