Activities of daily living, often termed ADLs, include the basic skills typically needed to manage the physical needs of a person. Providing assistance with the activities of daily living for someone in your care is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a family caregiver. It can be challenging, and you may feel awkward at times, but becoming informed on these vital tasks will help to make it easier.
The ability to perform ADLs is dependent on cognitive, motor and perceptual abilities. Assisting someone with their ADLs comes down to knowing how you can help. Understanding what your loved one’s level of function is in the following five areas of ADLs will help you determine what level of care or assistance you will be providing.
GROOMING, BATHING AND PERSONAL HYGIENE
Grooming, bathing and hygiene are very personal activities. It will be important for you to provide as much privacy and independence as possible during these activities. Minimizing how physically exposed your loved one is during a task can help him or her feel more comfortable. You may wrap a towel around private parts and uncover only during cleaning.
A specific task may be done more quickly if you just do it yourself, but you should always try to let the person you are caring for perform the task whenever possible – although only if it is safe to do so. Your loved one may be able to take a bath independently and may just need your help to wash his or her back. Remember to take your lead from the person as to how much or how little to help.
Make certain your loved one has clean, dry clothing available to wear. Pick out a couple of clothing options and allow him or her to choose the desired outfit for the day, when possible. Make sure the choices you have selected are in good repair and weather-appropriate. Allowing your loved one to choose what to wear encourages independence and minimizes the hassle for your loved one of choosing between too many options.
If your loved one requires assistance with toileting, it can be an uncomfortable or embarrassing task for both of you. Try to be very matter-of-fact when talking about toileting and provide toileting assistance in the same way you would provide any other kind of help.
Your loved one may feel a big loss of privacy and independence. You can help to keep his or her dignity intact by allowing as much privacy as possible. For example, if the senior is able to use the toilet independently, help the senior to get settled, and then leave the room and wait outside the door until you are called back in to help.
Your loved one may require extra assistance in clean-up. Again, approach matter-of-factly and provide quick but thorough clean-up. As you spend more time with your loved one, it will become part of the regular routine, making it easier for both of you.
Keep a regular bathroom schedule to ensure there are no accidents. In between bathroom breaks, look for signs your loved one may need to use the restroom.
TRANSFERING AND AMBULATING
Keeping safety at the top of mind when you assist a loved one with transferring or ambulating is a priority. It may be necessary to use a gait belt, transfer board or Hoyer lift to help your loved one move from point A to point B. An assistive device, such as a walker, cane or wheelchair, may be necessary. You will need to be familiar with all of these devices in order to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one. Keep in mind, your loved one’s tolerance level may change from day to day or hour to hour, so you will need to be prepared for the potential that your loved one may experience weakness in the middle of a transfer or while walking. Keep this in the back of your mind at all times so that you can safely assist your loved one to rest during the activity. Your loved one’s physical therapist can help create an exercise plan tailored to his or her physical limitations and strength in order to help regain or maintain mobility.
Your loved one may have challenges with any or all of the tasks associated with eating: shopping, preparing, and eating food. As a caregiver, you will be responsible for ensuring all of these needs are managed and met. Check with your loved one’s physician regarding any dietary restrictions or considerations. It will be important to ensure your loved one receives the necessary food and fluids to maintain strength and nutrition. If you are ever uncertain about your loved one’s nutritional needs or if you are concerned about his or her nutrition and hydration status, speak with the physician about getting a dietician consultation.
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