Growing old gracefully is easier said than done. Many of us often have trouble asking for help. Further, it is often difficult for Florida seniors to admit when they are having difficulties with things that once came easily, especially when it comes to understanding the difference between Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. 

This is just one of the reasons why having objective means for assessing their needs is so important. In the context of elder care these can include Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs, and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs. Let us share a few key differences that can help you and the Florida seniors you love in understanding the difference between Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living and navigating the challenges surrounding long-term care.

Let us start by answering the question: What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)? In all, there are six ADLs. They include: 

1. Walking, or otherwise being able to move from one place to another on foot, either indoors or outside. The clinical term for this is “ambulating.”

2. Feeding, or the use of fingers or utensils to move food from a plate or bowl into one’s mouth.

3. Dressing and grooming, or the ability to choose what to wear, putting clothes on properly, and shaving, brushing one’s hair, brushing one’s teeth and so on.

4. Toileting, or the ability to get on and off the toilet, use it properly, and cleaning oneself.

5. Bathing, or the ability to clean one’s face and body in the bath or shower.

6. Transferring, or the ability to shift  from one body position to another. This includes the ability to maneuver from a bed to a chair, or into a wheelchair. This can also include the ability to stand up from a bed or chair in order to access a walker or similar device.

When you enlist the help of a health care provider, the amount of assistance that the Older American needs with each ADL is also noted in assessment of overall function.

By contrast, let us share key insight into Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). While ADLs may be classified as basic life skills, IADLs are more complex. They can include: 

  • Household chores: Including dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes and so forth.
  • Laundry, including making sure that clothes and other items are washed or dry cleaned as needed.
  • Managing finances, such as paying bills on time, keeping track of bank balances and so on.
  • Medication management, which can include taking prescription medications as directed.
  • Making meals, which can include preparing and cooking or making food.
  • Shopping for food, and other lifetime necessities.
  • Transportation concerns which can include the ability to get from place to place by driving, or on public transit, moving from one residence to another and so forth.
  • Using communication devices which can include the ability to use the phone and computer to contact friends and family or call for help if needed.

It is important for you to begin to understand how ADLs and IADLs are used. Although assessments of  IADLs are not used to determine whether someone can qualify for public benefits programs such as Florida Medicaid, assessments of ADLs are. Specifically, Florida Medicaid states that to be eligible, someone must need help with two or more ADLs.

In general, health care providers use these tools to evaluate a person’s physical and mental capabilities as they age. By doing so, they can determine what type of care and supervision is warranted. As elder care lawyers, we also work with seniors and their loved ones each and every day to understand these issues. We know the challenges you face and we encourage you to schedule a meeting to discuss this and any other concerns you may have.