Caregiver Blog: Cheat Sheet for Caregivers Who Help with IADLs

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Tips and Tricks

ADLs, or activities of daily living, are necessary procedures for self-care, such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and ambulating. IADLs or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living are more complex activities that a person needs to perform to live independently.

To perform IADLs, a person needs both physical strength and a certain level of mental ability. These activities include cleaning and housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and management of finances as well as taking medication, shopping, transportation, and the use of communication devices such as smartphones.

Most of us complete these tasks daily on autopilot without ever thinking much about it. But for some, such as those with dementia, weakness, or disability, these activities can be a real struggle.

If you are a caregiver tasked to assist a patient in performing the above IADL duties, here are some of the greatest tips, all crammed into one cheat sheet:


Inspect the home and environment, and make a to-do list.

Some rooms need more cleaning than others, so prioritize tasks. Making a list and determining which requires the most attention is the first step to efficient housekeeping.

Remove clutter and put things in their proper places.

Use bags or carts to carry things, especially heavy items. To be able to move around safely and clean unhindered, put things away and throw garbage in the trash beforehand.

Make sure to use sacks and trays when putting things away to avoid dropping and possibly damaging the items (or your spine from repeatedly picking up what you dropped). For bulky items, use a cart when possible and store on waist-high shelves.

Clean from top to bottom, from the cleanest to the dirtiest.

For example, start dusting furniture first before vacuuming the floor. Do housekeeping from the cleanest to the dirtiest part of the house. The usual order is this: bedroom, living room, kitchen, and lastly, toilet and bath.


Separate the whites, light-colored clothes, and dark ones.

Colored clothes usually lose some color every wash, so it's not good to mix whites and colors in the same cycle. Even light-colored clothing can darken when washed with dark colors.

Use gloves when handling clothes and linen stained with blood and other body fluids.

Even when doing the laundry, you’ll need protection against potential blood-borne diseases.

Pre-treat soiled or stained clothes and linen.

Stains caused by blood should be pre-treated with hydrogen peroxide and scrubbed with a white bath soap before going in to the washing machine. Use cold water for this type of stain. To remove the smell of stool soiling from clothes, add baking soda to the wash cycle and use hot water. Sun-dry if possible.


Create a budget.

Financial management is usually for family caregivers. The purpose of creating a budget is to live within your means and spend on only what is essential.

Be transparent in all transactions.

Keep receipts of purchases and make a record of your budget and spending. Track every expense, so that you’ll know where the money is going.

Automate bill payments.

All the craze of caregiving can make you forget due dates. Automated bill payments can save time and prevent overdue fees or service disconnections.


Use a pill organizer.

Organize pills per day, and if that's still confusing for the patient, obtain separate organizers and color-code them for morning, midday, and night medications.

Keep a journal.

Maintain a list of all the medications and include details such as dosage, frequency, and special precautions. If you observe new symptoms that coincided with the intake of certain medications, write them down and inform the physician or nurse.

Bring the journal to every doctor’s appointment.

The journal can help the physician be aware of all the medications the patient is taking, especially if they have several doctors looking after them.


Always check with the care plan or doctor’s orders.

Patients usually have prescribed diets, so always check the care plan and follow the doctor's orders exactly.

Choose healthy, serve a variety.

Present patients with a variety of healthy foods to choose from. Instead of making them finish one whole apple, give a few slices of three different fruits. Use herbs instead of too much salt or seasoning.

Ask for your patient’s preferences and favorites.

There is no use serving broccoli when the patient hates it the most. You can choose to cook an equally nutritious vegetable in its place.


Stick to your list.

Do not go beyond what your budget allows. A list prepared ahead of time keeps you focused and on budget.

Buy in bulk for essentials and supplies that run out easily.

Bath and toilet supplies, incontinence pads, and some food supplies can be bought at wholesale prices.

Perishables should be bought as needed to avoid waste.

Fruits and vegetables that cannot be stored for long should be bought in the amount that can be consumed within their expiration (try using frozen fruits and vegetables when appropriate).


Check doctor’s orders and clearance for travel.

Always ensure that the patient is safe to travel in a certain vehicle or type of transportation and for a certain length of time. Have stopovers for toileting, stretching, and meal breaks.

Pre-purchase bus or train tickets to avoid the long wait times at terminals.

Being prepared prevents your patient from feeling tired unnecessarily and waiting long to get their ride.

Bring a backpack of essentials.

Medications, bottled water, and a snack are examples of items that must be within easy reach should the need arise.


Know how to use one yourself.

Whether a smartphone, computer, or tablet, you’ll need to learn how to use a device before you can help your patient use one.

The above tips are the foundation of all your tasks as you help patients with their IADLs. Once you're an expert, you'll even have a few tips of your own!


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