Published on October 27, 2023

Mastering the Basics: Your Guide to Daily Living Activities

Aging is a natural part of all living organisms. While we can attempt to delay or postpone it, the aging process is simply inevitable. 

Now, aging presents several consequences. One such effect is the gradual reduction in the ability to effectively engage in activities you could effortlessly do before. These range from simple things like feeding and using the bathroom to more demanding tasks like working out and swimming. 

However, a reduction in normal biological functions isn’t always a consequence of aging. It could also be due to a debilitating illness, physical injury, or disability. 

Medics have since come up with a formula for quantifying the amount of care and assistance a person needs to perform their daily tasks. This formula entails measuring the patient’s ability to engage in activities of daily living (ADLs). 

Here’s everything you need to know about ADLs.

Introducing Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living, commonly abbreviated as ADLs or ADL, is a medical term for daily self-care undertakings. The word is commonly applied with respect to patients who’ve lost the ability to take care of their personal needs, such as those in palliative care centers. 

There are several activities of daily living examples that healthcare professionals use to measure a person’s functional status. More on these later on

Where Did The Concept Of ADLs Originate From?

The concept of activities of daily living was first proposed in the 1950s by pioneering American physician and scientist Sidney Katz. At the time, Katz worked at the Benjamin Rose Hospital based in Cleveland, Ohio. 

However, Sidney Katz’s original idea of ADLs has undergone further refining over the years. Many researchers have since introduced certain aspects that were missing from his concept, such as mobility. 

In 1969, Lawton and Brody developed the most comprehensive version of Katz’s original ADL. The new concept came to be known as the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

ADLs Examples

1. Eating

Eating is perhaps the biggest form of daily living. 

But contrary to what you may think, eating concerning ADL doesn’t only entail the ability to chew and swallow food. It also includes the manual dexterity required in using cutlery. 

People with reduced motor functionality may be unable to handle spoons and other things properly. Much of the food they scoop from the plate falls off before it gets to their mouth. 

The situation is only worse for people with significantly reduced cognitive functioning. Such patients may lose their appetite or simply forget to feed themselves, leading to severe nutritional deficiencies.

2. Toileting

Toileting is the direct consequence of feeding. It mainly includes the ability to control the functions of your bowel and bladder muscles. 

People with reduced ADL may be unable to control their bowel and bladder movements. The result is bowel/fecal and urinary/bladder incontinence. 

Toileting also denotes the inability to use a toilet safely. 

Suppose you’re living with an aging or chronically ill friend or relative and realize that the bathroom keeps getting messy. In that case, your roommate is losing their toileting abilities. A viable solution would be to get them adult diapers. 

3. Ambulating

Ambulating denotes mobility. It encompasses the ability to properly stand upright, sit still, walk, lie down, or climb the stairs. 

Most mobility issues are often due to a decline in physical performance. However, certain neurological conditions may also be responsible. 

Reduced functional mobility can trigger problems affecting other ADLs. 

For instance, seniors may be unable to use the bathroom properly. Such people might cause an unsightly mess in the toilet if they go unaccompanied. Worse yet, they could injure their already fragile muscles. 

One intervention would be to introduce more disability-friendly features around your home, such as raised toilet seats and stair ramps.

4. Dressing

Dressing is yet another common activity of daily living. This ADL mainly relates to the ability to put clothes on. 

A reduction in motor functions due to age or chronic illnesses can impair your ability to rock in your best outfits. It’s especially a big problem for garments that need fastening. 

The inability to wear clothing is further compounded by diseases that produce pain and inflammation as their core symptoms, such as osteoarthritis and cancer. 

A person with reduced functional status may also be unable to select the best clothes to wear. This is usually due to diminished cognitive functioning caused by conditions like dementia.

5. Grooming

Grooming and dressing often go hand in hand. But while dressing mainly covers selecting and putting on clothes, grooming relates to personal hygiene. 

A person with reduced functional status may be unable to execute various aspects of grooming. These include bathing, shaving, hair care, teeth brushing, and nail care. 

Fortunately, certain interventions can come in handy in helping the chronically ill achieve the highest levels of personal hygiene possible. 

For instance, you might want to switch to automatic showers and water taps. If these prove fruitless, then the patient may need a professional caregiver.

Wrap Up

A measure of the ability to engage in activities of daily living can help healthcare professionals determine how much-assisted care to prescribe to a patient. Any prescribed interventions should improve the patient’s quality of life while reducing dependency on their family and friends.

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