Using Tools to Assess Care Needs for the Elderly

How do family members or friends know when an elderly loved one needs additional help with everyday tasks or if there are unmet personal care needs? Many family members rely on instinct, observation, feedback from physicians or self-reporting from seniors. However, formally assessing the functional status of older adults is critical when providing care and in determining if outside services are needed in the senior’s home or from a facility like rehabilitation or long term care. There are well researched and proven assessment tools available including the Barthel Index of Activities of Daily Living (ADL)  and the Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) Scale which can help make care decisions easier. Together, ADLs and IADLs are often utilized in determining a senior’s ability to manage independently.

The ADL assessment tool can be helpful in determining if the senior needs help or is ignoring routine functional tasks. These tasks include washing and/or bathing, dressing, toileting, brushing teeth, walking and eating. Even though difficulties with ADLs can occur at any age, the greatest prevalence of change occurs among seniors.

Assessing IADLs, which include cooking, driving, use of telephones and/or computers, shopping, paying bills and managing finances, can be a more difficult discussion and harder to determine. There may be daily variations in the senior’s ability to perform certain tasks that are considered IADLs. Problems with these tasks may involve difficult discussions including the senior’s ability to drive or manage finances. Changes may need to be made in alternative transportation and assistance with finances or other areas which may infringe on the senior’s independence. Sometimes it may be best to have a professional involved in making these determinations and when addressing these concerns with the senior.

When using either or both of these scales, look at them as if you were completing a survey. You will be asked to answer questions and choose a numerical answer which demonstrates the individual’s ability to master a task. You can then total the answers or look at each independent task to assess your loved ones need for assistance. Assessment tools are just one additional way to determine the need for extra assistance or to simply observe changes over time. These tools can be a helpful addition to your insight and feedback from loved ones and professional staff.

If you need help determining whether your loved one needs support, click the link to contact Abramson Care Advisors today. You can also call a senior care expert, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 215-371-3400.