our everyday life

How to Improve Elderly People's Activities of Daily Living

by Contributing Writer

Activities of daily living are the basic everyday things we do to take care of ourselves. These activities include: bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, moving about indoors and getting in and out of bed. Elderly people are more likely to be at least partially dependent upon others for assistance with these activities. There are steps family caregivers can follow to improve the performance of activities of daily living for many elderly people.

Independence for the Elderly

Review the elderly person's medical history, including what you have from her physician, nurse or social worker. They typically prepare detailed diagnoses, treatment plans and care plans that address all known physical or cognitive impairments to independent self-care performance. Determine the appropriateness of each task. If possible, observe as she does them by herself in her home for the entire day. Watch carefully for things that might interfere with her ability to perform these activities. For example, is the bathroom difficult to access? Does her arthritis cause morning stiffness and pain but clear up by afternoon? Make careful notes.

Determine what type of activity assistance is best suited for your loved one. Perhaps a device such as a lift chair, commode or strategically placed hand rails are a good solution. Another idea might be meals-on-wheels delivery. There are also lots of everyday items such as eating utensils that have been adapted specifically for different types of disabilities. You can request an evaluation and consultation with local home health services to help you locate resources.

Design an improvement plan and set realistic goals and expectations. Some conditions that commonly affect the elderly such as Alzheimer's disease are permanent, progressive and deteriorating. In that instance, a strategy such as introducing a pet into the household to keep him actively engaged with the environment for as long as possible might be a good tactic. If you have any questions on the exact nature of any chronic or severe disability, consult with his physician.

Follow through with all your careful planning. Once you have gathered ideas and suggestions, try them all. It's impossible to know beforehand exactly how well she will respond, so don't just assume that something won't work well. Often, even simple strategies such as marking the steps on a set of stairs with brightly colored tape can make a tremendous difference in assisting an elderly person to navigate them safely on her own.

Frequently reassess your strategies to make sure they are still working. Monitor your loved one's weight, hygiene and overall enthusiasm for active participation in his activities of daily living. It's also important to keep in mind that his circumstances, resources and health will be constantly changing. Some solutions that work well today might not be appropriate six months from now. Keep watching for improvements and consider this an ongoing process.

Items you will need
  • Pertinent medical history including diagnosis, treatment plans, care plans and discharge instructions, if being taken out of a facility.
  • Support/Resource network such as a visiting home health nurse, physical therapist, elder care training networks, peer support groups.