You’ve heard about the activities of daily living (ADL). You’ve heard about the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). You have doctors and friends saying to use them as the guidelines for knowing when your parents need in-home care services. What does it all mean?
Differences Between IADLs and ADLs
ADLs are the basic things people need to be able to do daily. There are six of them.
- Eating meals and snacks that are on a plate, chewing, swallowing, and drinking
- Using a toilet
- Bathing by taking a shower or bath
- Getting dressed
- Walking from one area to the next, using stairs or a stairlift, and getting out of bed or off a sofa/chair
- Taking care of grooming tasks like brushing teeth
Those are essential daily tasks that can lead to health issues if not performed regularly and properly. If your parent has a hard time using a spoon or fork and skips meals, it leads to malnutrition. If they can’t bathe, they risk infection. If they can’t walk up and down the stairs, how would they get out of the house if there was a fire?
IADLs are different. They’re more complex tasks that people do. While they’re still essential, they don’t necessarily impact health. IADLs include:
- Paying bills and managing money
- Cooking meals and preparing snacks
- Running errands
- Using a phone for prescription refills or appointment scheduling
- Keeping the house clean and organized
- Doing laundry
- Managing medications
- Maintaining the home (repairs and upkeep)
IADLs may not be as urgent, but they’re still important. Your parents need to have a home with running water, electricity, and heat. They need to refill medications and take them on time. If they’re struggling with IADLs, it can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
If your dad cannot cook a meal, it will impact his health if he’s relying on frozen pizzas and takeout Chinese all week long. If your mom doesn’t remember to take medications that are needed to manage a chronic health condition, she’s putting her health and safety in jeopardy. If they’re not paying bills, they could lose their home or have no power, water, or phone service.
What Happens if They Can’t Manage ADLs and IADLs?
If your parents cannot handle these tasks independently, they need help. You might want to step up and start helping out. If you have children at home or a full-time job, it can be hard to help out as often as they need. You and your siblings need to split tasks, but that may also be impossible to arrange.
Elder care services are a better solution. Your parents remain in their homes and enjoy their independence. They also have a trained caregiver stopping by daily or weekly to help out. Call an elder care agency to make arrangements.