Activities of Daily Living and the Need for Long-Term Care

Nurse holds the hand of a senior woman in long-term care facility.Nearly one in every seven of U.S. seniors aged 65 or older will likely require some form of long-term care later in life. In fact, almost a fifth of them will need long-term care services for upwards of five years.

Most long-term care involves assisting with basic personal needs rather than providing medical care. You may be able to receive long-term care services in your own own home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility. The most suitable option for you will depend in part on your unique needs and in fact could vary over time as your health evolves.

The long-term care community measures personal needs by looking at whether an individual requires help with basic activities.

ADLs Meaning

ADLs, or activities of daily living, are six basic activities that most people do every day without assistance. ADLs are important to understand because nursing homes may use them to gauge a person’s level of functioning. This then aids a long-term care facility in determining whether the individual qualifies for public assistance such as Medicaid or has triggered their long-term care insurance coverage.   

What Are Some ADL Examples?

The six activities of daily living generally encompass the following:

  • Bathing. The ability to clean oneself and perform grooming activities like shaving and brushing teeth

  • Dressing. The ability to dressed oneself without struggling with buttons and zippers

  • Eating. The ability to feed oneself

  • Transferring. Being able to either walk or move oneself from a bed to a wheelchair and back again

  • Toileting. The ability to get on and off the toilet

  • Continence. The ability to control one's bladder and bowel functions

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Other, more complicated tasks that are important to living independently, but aren't always necessary on a daily basis. These instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) include the following:

  • Using a telephone

  • Managing medications

  • Preparing meals

  • Housekeeping

  • Managing personal finances

  • Shopping for groceries or clothes

  • Accessing transportation

  • Caring for pets

Long-term care providers use ADLs and IADLs to determine whether an individual requires assistance. These measures also help indicate how much assistance an individual needs. Long-term care insurance usually begins paying on the policy when the individual cannot perform two or more ADLs.

To qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits, the state may do an assessment to verify that an applicant needs assistance with ADLs. Other state assistance programs also may require that an applicant be unable to perform a certain number of ADLs before qualifying. 

Consult With an Elder Law Attorney

To learn more about long-term care and Medicaid, be sure to connect with a qualified elder law attorney. They will be able to help you navigate your options and identify the services for which you are eligible. In addition, they can counsel you on the best approaches for financing long-term care services for yourself or a loved one.

Planning for long-term care before you actually need it is vital. Don't push off decisions until the last moment; find an elder law attorney in your area today.

You also may benefit from checking the following foundational articles various long-term care options:

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