Caregiving, Health Wellness, Lifestyle, Senior Living

IADLs vs ADLs: Everything You Need to Know

Learn the details about these two industry terms and find out how Oaks Senior Living communities can help you or a loved one maintain an independent lifestyle in assisted living.

If you’re a family caregiver or spend time with an older loved one, you may have heard the terms “activities of daily living (ADLs)” or “instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)” when speaking with their medical providers.

While they seem the same at first glance, they’re actually very different. So, IADLs vs ADLs — what’s the difference? Learn the details about these two industry terms and find out how Oaks Senior Living communities can help you or a loved one maintain an independent lifestyle in assisted living.

What are ADLs?

Activities of daily living, or ADLs, are basic self-care tasks required to live a functional and quality life. They’re learned during adolescence and you tailored them to your lifestyle throughout adulthood. However, as you age, some ADLs become more difficult to perform because of physical and mobility limitations.

In fact, someone 65 and over has nearly a 70% chance of needing some type of support as they age. 

Medically experts typically agree ADLs include:

Moving around independently. Medical professionals will refer to this ADL as “ambulation,” and it means the ability to safely, freely, and independently walk around your environment. However, older adults who have mastered using walking aids and wheelchairs can also successfully perform this ADL. 

Getting dressed. To meet the standard for getting dressed, a person must be able to retrieve clean clothes appropriate for the occasion or weather, put their clothes on themselves and take their clothes off themselves. Many seniors can modify their wardrobe with items like slide-on shoes and shirts without buttons to perform this ADL, but those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of memory impairment may struggle to find appropriate clothing.

Maintaining personal hygiene. This is the ability to perform tasks like brushing teeth, combing hair, taking a bath or shower, maintaining kept facial hair. or trimming nails. Physical and environmental limitations are often the reason an older adult may neglect personal hygiene. For instance, they might be afraid of falling on slippery bathroom floors or have a limited range of motion that makes tasks like brushing their hair uncomfortable. Seniors who have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia often forget to bathe or perform other basic self-care tasks.

Continence and using the restroom. These are two separate, but equally important ADLs. Continence means the ability to control bladder and bowel movements. Using the bathroom requires the ability to transfer yourself on and off the toilet, clean yourself, and use all the features of a bathroom appropriately.

Eating. This is the ability to bring food from the plate to your mouth, chew, and swallow it without choking, and maintain adequate nutrition for a healthy body. Seniors who struggle with this daily activity may have dental issues, mobility limitations, or can’t grasp eating utensils because of weak grip caused by arthritis. 

Often, many older adults can gain a more independent lifestyle in assisted living because of the accommodating floor plans and common spaces. Nonslip floors, grab bars, increased lighting, wide doorways and hallways, and other safety features can help seniors with ADLs like moving freely in their home and using the bathroom. 

It’s important to remember that just because someone struggles with one ADL doesn’t mean they have difficulty with all ADLs. At Oaks Senior Living, we’re proud to offer a person-directed approach to assisted living. The caregivers in our communities encourage independence and personal choice, while also providing each resident with just the right amount of customized support that suits their unique needs and preferences.

Often, many older adults can gain a more independent lifestyle in assisted living because of the accommodating floor plans and common spaces.

IADLs vs ADLs — What’s the Difference?

Whereas ADLs are basic skills required for a functional life, IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living) are essential to live independently. They require a more complex level of thinking and are activities you master throughout your years as a teenager and young adult.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) recognizes 12 IADLs. However, only 10 of them typically apply to older adults. The two IADLs not listed here are caring for others and rearing children. While these are important skills for most adults, many seniors have already raised their children and are no longer taking care of other family members. 

1. Home maintenance

This includes household chores, lawn care and gardening, maintaining home appliances, maintaining a vehicle, and knowing whom to contact when you need help with home repairs.

2. Pet care

This includes feeding, grooming, and exercising your pets, cleaning up their messes, and keeping up with the vaccination schedule recommended by their veterinarian. 

3. Health management

This encompasses the ability to develop and maintain a routine that benefits your health and wellness. It means eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, remembering to take your medications on time and as directed, and avoiding habits that poorly affect your health, such as smoking. 

4. Managing a budget and paying bills

Successfully managing your finances for an independent lifestyle requires you to responsibly use your fiscal resources, know how to use various forms of payment like a debit card or check, and make short- and long-term financial goals. 

5. Meal preparation

While meal preparation is an important part of eating, for IADLs vs ADLs, meal preparation is considered an IADL. It involves planning, preparing and serving yourself well-balanced meals, and cleaning up the kitchen, dishware and utensils after eating.

6. Shopping

This includes creating shopping lists for groceries and other items, and selecting and purchasing items in person or online.  

7. Communication

Successful communication means using a variety of devices to send and receive information. It can include writing letters, using the phone, sending emails, or using communication devices for seniors who are blind or have hearing limitations. 

8. Safety

This includes maintaining a safe home environment, taking preventive measures to protect your safety as you age, having a plan for emergency situations, identifying emergency contacts, and knowing when it’s time to replace batteries in items like smoke detectors. 

9. Pursuing spiritual activities

Connecting with nature, attending worship service, and connecting with a force bigger than yourself is considered an essential activity for an enriched lifestyle. Spiritual activities have been shown to increase social activity, decrease symptoms of depression, and reduce limitations with both ADLs and IADLs. 

10. Transportation

This is the ability to drive or use public or private transportation to get to medical appointments, run errands and attend social events.

Senior living communities feature a variety of services and amenities that help residents with both ADL and IADLs, add daily enrichment to their lives, and offer a level of convenience rarely found in residential homes. 

Residents at our senior living communities in Georgia and South Carolina benefit from services and amenities like:

  • Maintenance-free residences
  • Medication management
  • Specialized diets and alternative menu choices
  • Scheduled transportation to appointments and off-site events
  • On-site physical and occupational therapy
  • Assistance with walking and support with wheelchair mobility
  • Abundant social opportunities
  • A variety of physical and wellness activities

Many of our communities are also pet-friendly and feature plenty of green spaces to spend time with your pet and connect with nature.

Discover a Different Approach to Assisted Living at Oaks Senior Living Communities

Our assisted living communities offer compassionate and personalized support, plus warm and welcoming environments that feel just like home. To schedule an in-person tour at an Oaks Senior living community near you, contact our team online and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

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