ADLs – What are they?

3.3.14  M Dressing

Activities of Daily Living ~~ These are the tasks that we all take for granted each day of our lives. They are the things that allow us to live successfully within the family structure. Things that we learned as children that enabled us to become independent and proud of who we were.

As individuals’ progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia, they become less able to control their ADLs. This raises great anxiety within them. They might become angry or belligerent, or uncooperative in other areas of their lives because they can’t understand what is happening to them.

So what are ADLs? Those of us in the professional world throw this term around without thinking. But for caregivers it can be puzzling. ADLs refers to such tasks as bathing, showering, brushing teeth, feeding oneself, brushing hair, tying shoes, opening and closing zippers, choosing clothing, going to the bathroom, walking with or without assistive equipment and dressing, to name a few. They are the kinds of tasks that allow a person to care for their own basic needs.

As AD and dementia take their toll, people will be less able to carry out these tasks on their own. They will come to a point where they will need reminders to do certain tasks. Within a period of time some assistance will become necessary. They may still be able to choose their clothing, but not know which piece of clothing to put on first. In time they will need direct assistance from someone else who can choose their clothing and get them dressed.

A very important point to remember, is that we want patients to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. It may take more time for a caregiver to make sure the task/s are done, but the more the patients can do for themselves, the more successful they will feel.

In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if the color of a blouse doesn’t match with Mom’s skirt…or that Dad has on a plaid shirt and stripe pants. Does it really matter if he is wearing two different colored socks? They answer is no…not in the larger picture. The main thing is that the clothing is clean and they have been able to do as much as possible.

If you are considering placing your loved one in a memory care facility, you will want to know if their fees for care are all-inclusive or if they charge additional fees as a patient’s care needs increase. Many facilities have a step program where fees will increase as a resident’s ADLs decrease. Both practices are common in the field.

A word of advice – be patient as your loved one tries to handle his/her ADLs. If the experience is too frustrating for the patient or you, the caregiver, come back in a few minutes or an hour later and try to complete the task at that point. In some cases, the task can be put on hold until the following day or may never need to be done. Flexibility and creativity become an important part of the caregiver’s daily life.

Photo Credit: Buck and Buck

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