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Perhaps you’ve noticed your aging mother has unexplained bruises on her arms or legs, or maybe you found the TV remote in the fridge and the milk in the pantry. Maybe your dad is no longer capable of maintaining his yard or he has been smelling a little off lately, possibly indicating a failure to keep himself clean on a daily basis. These and many other situations are common signs that aging adults may be having trouble keeping up with their activities of daily living (ADLs).

Fender benders, bills that haven’t been paid, and missed medication dosages are more serious signs that perhaps the mental and/or physical health of your aging loved one may not be what it should be to maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle. Here is a basic checklist of activities that seniors should be able to perform on their own.

Bathing/Personal Grooming

  • Can take showers/baths completely on their own with no assistance from someone (grab rails or a seat in the shower can help maintain independence).
  • Can use the toilet completely independently.
  • Maintains daily or every other day cleanliness practices.
  • Nails, hair, and skin look clean, healthy, and well maintained.
  • Clothing is clean and neat, and they are able to dress.

May need support if they:

  • Can only wash hands and face.
  • Cannot shave safely or regularly.
  • Are physically unwilling or unable to take a bath or shower.
  • Are bedwetting at night or incontinent during the day.
  • Are unwilling to receive assistance to maintain daily cleaning standards.
  • Are unaware that days or weeks pass by without maintaining personal cleanliness.
  • Cannot wash or keep clothes clean or need assistance dressing.

Nutrition and Exercise

  • Can safely prepare, cook, and clean up after a meal in the kitchen.
  • Can drive to the store to buy healthy food, or has food delivered on a weekly basis.
  • Is able to comply with any food allergies, sensitivities, or diet restrictions.
  • Can walk, swim, jog, garden, etc. daily or weekly with no assistance.

May need support if they:

  • Cannot safely use the kitchen tools, stove, etc.
  • Let food spoil or don’t notice expirations dates.
  • Cannot drive to the store or don’t have access to healthy food choices daily or weekly.
  • Cannot adhere to any dietary restrictions.
  • Cannot or won’t feed themselves or are constantly dehydrated.
  • Are unable to engage in physical activity, especially having trouble walking or moving around.


  • Can shop, attend appointments, and find their way around town and back home.
  • Can attend family and social gatherings without assistance.
  • Can drive safely and independently.
  • Remembers names, important dates, and faces, or uses a calendar or reminders to do so.
  • Pays bills on time and in full.
  • Adheres to taking correct medication dosages.
  • Can use a telephone, email, etc. with little or no assistance.

May need support if they:

  • Are unable to drive and run necessary errands or go to appointments.
  • Get lost or cannot remember where they are or where they live.
  • Consistently forget familiar faces, dates, and scheduled appointments.
  • Forget to pay bills, cannot walk to the mailbox, misplace important paperwork, etc.
  • Forget to take prescriptions or take the incorrect dosage.
  • Are unable to use the telephone to communicate or a computer to check email, etc.
  • No longer show interest in social or family gatherings.


  • Can keep the inside of their home clean independently or can hire help to do so.
  • Can wash dishes, put things away without assistance.
  • Can maintain the outside yard with little to no assistance or can hire out help to do so.
  • Can fix small problems that arise or can hire someone to do so.

May need support if they:

  • Cannot consistently maintain or clean the interior of their home.
  • Are unable to notice or fix problems such as leaks, pest control, broken appliances, etc.
  • Are unwilling or unable to hire outside help to help manage the issues.

Of course, there are many different lifestyles and standards for what is considered normal and healthy, and this checklist is just a general guide. If your aging loved one is unable to complete most ADLs on their own or almost on their own, their own safety and the safety of anyone who lives with them may be in jeopardy. Often times bringing in an in-home caregiver on a part-time basis is enough support to keep the aging adult comfortable in their own home.

If you notice that your aging loved one needs support in one or more of these areas, it can be a difficult conversation to have. The sooner you talk through these issues with your family, the easier it will be on everyone in the long run.

A senior care coordinator can help smooth out the tough conversations that need to take place, as well as offer outside support and assistance with a gentle and experienced hand. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable and experienced care coordinators, as our services are always free of charge to you and your aging loved one.