Instrumental Activities of Daily Living and Healthy Aging

Lauren Caggiano

Written by Lauren Caggiano on Thu Oct 27 2022.

One way to determine if you or a loved need some extra help is to look at instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These are more complex tasks that are necessary for truly independent living. Experts have identified eight IADLs used to evaluate a person’s ability to be self-sufficient. If they’re having difficulty, it might be time to bring in supportive services so they can continue living independently.

Research shows that aging in place is in the best interest of older adults for a number of reasons. According to USC Leonard Davis’ School of Gerontology, it’s good for people in terms of maintaining social connections, financial stability, mental health, and other indicators of well-being.

One way to determine if you or a loved need some extra help to help you age in place is by looking at instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These are more complex tasks that are needed to truly live independently. Experts have identified eight IADLs used to evaluate a person’s ability to live on their own. If they’re having difficulty, it might be time to bring in supportive services so they can continue living independently. 

What Are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living?

IADLs are tasks that require certain levels of physical and mental ability. IADLs are on a scale and skill levels in these categories range from independent proficiency to needing help to complete a task. Looking at how someone is functioning in the following eight areas provides a look at how different needs might impact their ability to live alone. For instance, a social worker or medical professional might look at the following in a home visit:

  • Cooking: Can the person plan, prepare, and serve meals?

  • Managing Medications: Can the person take the correct doses of medications at the right times? Can they organize drugs in separate dosages in advance?

  • Shopping: Can the person handle shopping for clothing, personal care items, and groceries?

  • Communicating via telephone: Can the person use a telephone, look up, and dial phone numbers?

  • Managing finances: Can the person handle their finances, including paying bills, using an ATM, and tracking account balances?

  • Performing housework: Is the person able to keep a clean and tidy home?

  • Driving or using public transportation: Can the person drive, use public transportation, or arrange for a ride?

  • Laundry: Is the person physically able to wash and dry their clothes?

When is it Necessary to Bring in Help for IADLs?

As mentioned above, IADLs fall on a spectrum. That means that older adults who need help with a few tasks listed above can still live on their own. Experts like a geriatric care manager, primary care physician, or occupational therapist can weigh in after conducting what’s known as a functional assessment. This is a tool used to determine the amount and type of help a person might need and guide the care plan.

However, the functional assessment is just one piece of the puzzle. A comprehensive geriatric assessment takes it a step further and can gauge a person’s skill in both activities of daily living (ADLs) and IADLs, lifestyle factors, and physical and mental health to dig deeper.

If it is decided that a person needs help with these tasks, this is a case when both family caregivers and formal caregivers can be resources. In addition to receiving help with these concerns, older adults can also find benefits like companionship and social interaction they might be missing in their daily lives.

When looking into this type of care for your loved one, it’s important to be informed. For one, this kind of home care service is paid for out of pocket. In some cases, limited IADL assistance may be covered by Medicare if the person needs short-term help with ADLs and medically necessary skilled nursing care provided at home.

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Lauren Caggiano
Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is an Indiana-based copywriter/editor, ACE certified personal trainer and ACE certified health coach. She has a passion for health and wellness and helping people live fuller and richer lives.