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How to Test Your Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Independence

Cindy Davis
Written by Cindy Davis

Health care professionals use The Lawton-Brody IADL Scale to test senior’s ability to independently do the more complex activities of daily living.

What kind of help do you need to complete more complex key activities?

We first came across The Lawton-Brody Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale, better known as The Lawton-Brody IADL, when trying to determine if our parents qualified for access to their long-term-care insurance benefits.  As part of the screening process, we were asked to tell insurance company representatives how well our loved one independently performed these eight instrumental activities of daily living functions:

  • Ability to Use Telephone,
  • Shopping,
  • Food Preparation,
  • Housekeeping,
  • Laundry,
  • Mode of Transportation,
  • Responsibility for Medications, and
  • Ability to Handle Finances.

For years health care professionals have used the Lawton-Brody IADL to evaluate the functional status of their patients.  We found the test to be extremely helpful to:

  • Establish a baseline;
  • Get a preview of things to monitor for changes in ability;
  • Make informed decisions about what type of help may be required;
  • Communicate with health care providers about changes and explore alternatives; and
  • Respond appropriately to questions from long-term care representatives and social services.

We encourage you to download this user-friendly version of the Katz ADL Index and conduct a preliminary test of each skill. 

You’ll be asked to score each function as “yes” or “1 point”  for completion of the function with no supervision, direction, or personal assistance; and “no” or “0 points” for doing the function with the need for supervision, direction, personal assistance, or complete reliance on someone else.  If you need a more detailed description of each function see the #7 – Running Your Household post. 

If your total score is a “6,” then you would be considered fully functioning.  A score of “4” would indicates a moderate level of impairment and a score of “2” or less indicates severe functional impairment.  Functions rated as “0” are a good indication that a comprehensive geriatric assessment would be recommended to asses underlying causes and guide overall health care planning. 

For more on the topic, start with this link to the “try this: Best Practices in Nursing Care to Older Adults – Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living (ADL)” article from The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, New York University, College of Nursing.

About the author

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Serial entrepreneur and former full-time caregiver for eight years to her father with multiple chronic conditions. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Medicine and Asian Studies; and a Master of Business Administration degree recipient in marketing and finance from UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management. Currently lives in Dallas, Texas with her teenage son and advises businesses on strategic planning, marketing, finance, and operations as owner of Next Level Consulting, Inc.

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