When we think of “the little things in life,” we often think of the special moments and activities that bring us comfort and joy, providing a short, temporary respite from our responsibilities and daily routine. However, there are other little things that we do on a daily basis that most of us take completely for granted, often to the extend we don’t even notice them. Getting out of bed, walking up or down a staircase, putting on a pair of socks or even preparing a cup of tea may all seem like simple, often trivial activities that we complete without a second thought or consideration, but to an elderly or disabled individual, even the most basic and rudimentary tasks can be arduous, physically and emotionally overwhelming or even impossible to complete. Worse, an elderly or disabled individual may feel shame in sharing these difficulties, or may choose to forgo a basic task or even remain indoors or in bed, rather than admit that they need regular, ongoing assistance to live their lives to the fullest.
ADLs and IADLs
In order to help determine whether or not your elderly or disabled loved one requires caregiving services, it’s important to understand how “little things,” or minor daily and frequent activities, are formally defined within the medical and caregiving communities. Two formal terms exist to define basic and/or daily activities: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are basic daily and self-care skills that include eating, bathroom activities such as toileting and showering, dressing, walking short distances and transferring, such as moving from a bed to a wheelchair. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more detailed and complex activities that may not occur on a daily basis, but are still necessary to maintain a healthy, independent lifestyle. IADLs activities include shopping, managing and maintaining a medication regimen, preparing and cooking meals, basic housekeeping, utilizing basic communication services such voice and email, and managing private or public transportation locally. By understanding the level of care that your elderly or disabled loved may require on a more structured and formal basis, you can begin the process of determining if a caregiver and caregiving services are necessary.
Broaching the Subject of Caregiving
If you believe that your elderly or disabled loved one requires some level of caregiving services, broaching the subject may be uncomfortable or difficult, especially if you believe they are taking steps to hide the fact that they are unable to complete ADLs or IADLs. Your disabled or elderly loved one may feel ashamed or resentful, or may even believe that accepting caregiving services represents a loss of autonomy or independence, even if the practical effects include more autonomy and independence. Before you bring an outside caregiver in, it’s important to address the underlying cause of this resistance.
From the offset, it’s never a good idea to pressure an individual into accepting caregiving services, and treating an elderly or disabled loved one as if they have no choice in this significant decision can be disastrous. Instead, start a conversation, and from the very beginning, highlight and emphasize the positive aspects of caregiving, especially the increase in independence and autonomy that your elderly or disabled loved one can enjoy when their physical, mental and emotional energy isn’t constantly diverted to addressing or even masking ADLs and IADLs. It’s also important to note that your loved one may be experiencing emotional resentment if they believe you are “handing off” caregiving responsibilities to an outsider, or they may feel that the presence of an outsider in their home is invasive. While these concerns may not be alleviated quickly or easily, experts believe that the more you involve your elderly or disabled loved one in the process of selecting a caregiver, the more they will be readily accepting of outside assistance from a professional caregiver.