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Providing Hands-On Care for Persons with Dementia

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Elder abuse affects millions of older Americans. Individuals with dementia may be at even greater risk for such mistreatment. To learn more about this issue, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse

Tasks, such as managing money, housekeeping, and cooking, sometimes called instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Many people with dementia will need help with tasks that are called “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living,” or IADLs. IADLs are activities that we perform from day to day that add to our quality of life, but are not as basic to self-care as ADLs or activities of daily living. The following tasks are considered to be IADLs:

  • Managing money (i.e., writing checks, handling cash, keeping a budget)
  • Managing medications(i.e., taking the appropriate dose of medication at the right time)
  • Cooking (i.e., preparing meals or snacks, microwave/stove usage)
  • Housekeeping (i.e., performing light and heavy chores such as dusting or mowing the lawn)
  • Using appliances (i.e., using the telephone, television, or vacuum appropriately)
  • Shopping (i.e., purchasing, discerning between items)
  • Extracurriculars (i.e., maintaining a hobby or some leisure activities)

Persons with dementia may be able to perform these tasks independently, with some difficulty, or with additional assistance. However, their performance might change over time as well. It is a good idea to take notes on the abilities of your loved ones and how they change. In this way, when you go to the physician, you can supply information that can help him or her better understand the progress of the disease.

are the sorts of activities that allow individuals to maintain a sense of independence. However, in middle to late stages of dementia, these activities can become increasingly difficult to accomplish. More basic self-care tasks such as bathing, dressing, or eating — sometimes called activities of daily living

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Individuals with dementia may also need help with tasks that are called “Activities of Daily Living,” or ADLs. ADLs are the basic activities that we must perform every day in order to take care of ourselves. Typically, ADLs refers to the following tasks:

  • Bathing (i.e., able to bathe without assistance in cleaning or getting into tub or shower)
  • Toilet Use (i.e., able to use the toilet and clean oneself afterwards)
  • Control or continence of urine and bowels (i.e., able to wait for the right time and the right place)
  • Dressing and grooming (i.e., able to button a shirt, choosing appropriate clothing)
  • Moving about (i.e., able to move in and out of a chair or bed, walking)
  • Eating (i.e., able to eat without having to be fed by another)

Persons with dementia may be able to perform these tasks independently, with some difficulty, or with additional assistance. Their performance of these tasks is likely to change over time as well. It is a good idea to take notes on the abilities of your loved one and how he or she changes. The information can be shared with health professionals to help them better understand the progress of the disease in your loved one.

— may also become challenging in later stages as well. Many caregivers assist their loved ones with all of these activities.

Follow the links below to learn some information and tips about helping people with these self-care activities: