5 Ways to Compensate for Declines in Activities of Daily Living

Once you have noticed that declines in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are becoming an issue, it is important to take steps to manage the situation. It can be difficult for seniors to acknowledge their decline, but offering strategies to compensate can provide optimism in a tough situation.

This article will discuss four steps you can take to compensate for declines in ADLs or IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living). For additional information, see our article on Why Are the Top 6 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) so Important?

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Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living

Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living #1: Acknowledge the Issue

Your approach is critical! Like most of us, older adults want to maintain control and independence, so they may react defensively or initially be unwilling to discuss age-related declines in activities of daily living. Try to understand their priorities, perspectives, and fears.

Most seniors are sensitive to their changing capabilities, and those concerns can be exacerbated if they feel others view them as less able or competent. However, you can minimize these issues to ensure these essential discussions occur.

It is helpful to record specific, concrete observations before initiating a conversation if you have noticed a worrisome decline in someone you care about. To open the conversation, share that you have noticed some changes and hope you can share your concerns.

If possible, ask what the senior has noticed about increased difficulty completing daily tasks and how they feel about it. Remember that while families are often most concerned with the safety of their loved ones, aging seniors are more often concerned about maintaining autonomy. It may take multiple conversations to make progress. Be patient – unless there is an urgent safety or medical need or financial risk, it is best to allow the elder to adjust to the idea of addressing age-related decline.

Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living #2: Consult with a Health Professional

Once the issue is acknowledged, the next step is to consult the physician. A primary physician can assess physical and cognitive decline. They can also identify underlying medical conditions and make necessary referrals to specialists ranging from audiologists for hearing aids to physical therapists. Some of the age-related declines in activities of daily living abilities can be addressed and overcome with treatment, therapy, mobility, and other auxiliary devices. The proper treatment or tools can sometimes dramatically improve capabilities and quality of life!

Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living #3: Consider Home Modifications

Simple Tools Enhance Independence

Depending on the structure and layout of the home environment, you may need to make modifications to accommodate declines in activities of daily living. Most seniors would prefer to age in place. Still, it is essential to consider whether this makes sense for an individual with a diminished ability to navigate their home safely and meet their daily needs.

Suppose the house is a good candidate for aging-in-place modifications, and family and/or friends are available to help. In that case, many relatively inexpensive modifications are simple enough to do on your own. See our articles on Aging in Place and Home Safety. If declines in activities of daily living are a significant concern, an Occupational Therapist can be very helpful in planning modifications.

Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living #4: Explore Personal Care Options

It is essential to be in a safe environment, but personal care may still be needed for individuals struggling with declines in their ability to complete activities of daily living.

Personal care tasks can be the most challenging needs to address. Often a spouse or other family member helps, but providing ongoing care can quickly become exhausting. Suppose a family member is unavailable or the activity of daily living needs is high. In that case, you may need to hire a home care provider or begin to explore a transition to a senior care community. Homecare providers can become expensive, so if home modifications are needed in addition to care, it may be better to consider a senior living option.

Steps to Address Declines in Activities of Daily Living #5: Address Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

A decline in the ability to complete activities of daily living will require a high level of attention. Still, seniors struggling with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) should find it easier to get support for their limitations. Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL’s) consist of household management tasks. Often a son or daughter will take over the management of finances. If a family member is not in the area to help with other household tasks, services for grocery delivery, house cleaning, and lawn care are widely available. In many cases, a pharmacy can even deliver medications. These services typically come at a cost, but they are relatively inexpensive compared to a home health provider.

What’s Next?

Early planning and intervention are always the best. Be proactive! If you optimize the home for changing abilities and take small steps to enhance health and well-being, you or your loved one can more successfully navigate living independently at home. That said, life can change quickly, so it is wise to have a backup plan in place.

To learn more about Activities of Daily Living, see our article Why Are the Top 6 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) so Important? Other helpful topics include Aging in Place and Safer Homes. For more immediate guidance, contact us now.

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Kathy’s mission is to use the Age Better Resources platform to share the knowledge she acquired over many years to help seniors understand how they can optimize their later years. Her hope is that the content on this site, the associated services or products available, and the experts she will share, will help you or your loved ones create a plan to live as many good days and years as possible. If immediate or more personalized support is needed, personal consultations are available.

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