What are Daily Living Skills?

As you go about your daily life, you perform a variety of tasks. From taking care of your home to getting enough rest, engaging in proper hygiene, attending appointments and enjoying nutritious meals; everyday activities define quality of life.

Most people engage in their required daily tasks, which can seem automatic, with little thought. But for individuals with memory impairment and physical challenges, these essential daily living skills can begin to present obstacles to leading a healthy, fulfilling life.

If you’ve noticed a family member having trouble with housekeeping, meal preparation and other routine chores, you may wonder about the right time to seek assistance. What should you know about daily living skills, the reasons your relative may begin to experience challenges, and where you can get help?

The Significance of Daily Living Skills

Daily living skills, sometimes referred to as activities of daily living (ADLs), are routine, self-care tasks in which most people participate on a daily basis without assistance. Basic daily living skills include showering and bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet and transferring between a bed and chair.

The daily living skills in the “basic” category include personal hygiene tasks, such as brushing and styling hair. “Transferring” can refer to overall functional mobility, including the ability to get in and out of bed, walk as needed, get up and down from a chair or sofa, and move from one place to another to complete other daily tasks. In addition, self-feeding also is considered to be a basic daily living skill.

Beyond the basic daily living skills, another set of daily tasks also exists. Sometimes referred to as “instrumental” activities, they include managing finances, keeping the family home safe and clean, shopping and preparing meals, communicating via telephone or another method and taking medications as prescribed.

Medical insurers, health care providers and other organizations use daily living skills as an important metric for determining the level of care an individual may need now and in the future. According to Investopedia, any providers of long-term care insurance stipulate that payment for supportive living begins when an individual cannot complete at least two of the basic daily living skills. Occupational therapists sometimes use instrumental daily living skills to evaluate an individual’s progress or need for continued therapy.

A significant number of people seek care — either through in-home assistance or a supportive living community — because they need ongoing help to perform some or all daily living skills. Investopedia also notes that most people who enter a rehabilitative care community stay there less than one year, but approximately one-quarter of individuals stay longer than a year.

Why Do Problems Arise?

A variety of chronic health conditions can cause problems with daily living skills as people age. Individuals who experience either physical or cognitive health challenges may begin to have difficulties with caring for themselves.

In many cases, the daily living skills that decline the most are those that most people learn as children — and that many of us take for granted. Skills such as grooming, bathing, dressing and using the toilet are essential for basic survival, while higher-level skills like shopping, driving or using public transportation and doing laundry contribute significantly to everyday quality of life.

For many people, a declining ability to complete essential daily living skills — from personal hygiene to eating, transferring, taking medications, housekeeping and paying bills — results in seeking help in some form. Individuals who have trouble primarily with the higher-level tasks but can attend to their own basic health and personal care needs may prefer part-time assistance in their homes.

When individuals begin to lose the ability to complete basic tasks essential to survival, full-time assistance — whether in the home or through a move to a supportive living community — may be required.

Experts note that problems with completing essential daily living skills often relate closely to specific health concerns. For instance, an individual suffering from lung disease may not have the strength required to take care of physical tasks such as laundry, cleaning and shopping. Problems like deteriorating vision or arthritis also can impede an individual’s ability to complete certain tasks such as filling a daily medication box.

Getting Help with Daily Living Skills

If your family member is having problems engaging in either basic or instrumental daily living skills, when is it time to seek help? The answer to that question varies widely among individuals. Whether problems with a specific daily living skill indicate a need for help depends on the overall living situation, needs and preferences of the individual and other challenges someone faces.

In some cases, specific problems can be addressed by making small changes. For example, if your relative has trouble with buttons, you can exchange wardrobe items for those with zippers. If the family member has problems with cooking, you can provide pre-made meals that need only be heated in the microwave or that can be enjoyed with no additional preparation.

Changes may come gradually and may worsen with time, however. What begins as problems with one type of clothing or certain types of food can progress to an overall inability to handle daily living skills like dressing and eating.

If you’ve begun to notice that your family member faces challenges completing certain essential daily tasks, the best plan is to communicate about the situation as early as possible. Does your family member perceive any problems? What is the preferred solution? By engaging in an open, compassionate discussion, you and your family member can together determine the best method of assistance.

In some cases, deterioration in daily living skills is the result of cognitive challenges, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. If your relative is experiencing significant cognitive impairment, you may need to decide for the sake of the individual’s safety and well-being.

If possible, include your family member in the decision on getting help, and consider the individual’s opinion in choosing specific options. For instance, if you decide to hire someone to help, make sure your family member has an opportunity to meet the person before making a final decision.

Choosing a Supportive Living Environment

A supportive living community can provide you and your relative with a variety of personalized options for assistance. With various levels of care offered, along with a wide range of your family member can receive needed assistance while continuing to maintain as much independence as possible.

As you review supportive living options, consider involving your family member in the decision as much as the situation allows. When you visit communities, consider having your family member join you to get a feel for the atmosphere as well as the people who live there.

Staff members in a supportive living community can assist you in determining the appropriate level of care and the specific services that will benefit your family member. In addition, you can gain an understanding of services that will be available should your family member experience additional challenges with daily living skills.

A Supportive Living in a Vibrant Community at Edenwald

Located near shopping, dining and cultural and educational resources in Towson, Maryland, Edenwald offers a range of supportive living options. Your family member will enjoy a beautiful, maintenance-free apartment residence, a variety of personalized amenities and services, and exceptional health care focused on maximizing independence. To schedule a visit, please contact us today.