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Activities of Daily Living and Promoting Dignity

What  Are Activities of Daily Living?

Most people would agree that there are some conversations which are simply taboo at the dinner table. Conversely,  professional healthcare providers, by nature, have no qualms about discussing intimate bodily functions at any time, and sometimes it is even okay to discuss them over lunch. Most of us who are young and healthy have lived our lives without having to share details that we consider private. Have you talked about your bowel habits lately; the color, odor, consistency, or frequency? Has anyone asked you recently if you dribble when you cough or laugh? How about sharing your weight? These are part of our activities of daily living which most of us consider private. Showering, oral hygiene, grooming, and getting dressed are some of the other activities which we consider private.

Dignity in Life’s Circle: Dependence, Independence, Dependence

By far, one of the most humiliating experiences a grown mature adult can face is dependence on another for the simple tasks of performing activities of daily living. Unless you have seen it or felt it, most people have no idea what it is like to be dependent on someone for simple tasks in living. We all enter the world dependent on others for our basic needs of being fed, clothed, sheltered, cleaned, and loved. We grow; we learn; we enter the adult world.We strive to meet goals, take care of our growing families, maintain careers, and build homes. We plan, provide, and work hard. We have compassion and help others. Then one day, we blink; we are aged and once again become dependent. Most people would rather not think about these things because the unpleasant thoughts are too emotional for consideration while we are healthy.

Fortunately, there are health care professionals….

Fortunately, there are health care professionals to advocate for those families who may be struggling with the issues surrounding cognitive or physical changes of illness or aging. Doctors, nurses, and caregivers understand. Those most private and embarrassing discussions will most likely be with your professional health care providers. Making decisions about the future is important at any age and requires opening the conversation. While it may be unpleasant, discussions about what kind of care could be needed are imperative to maintain quality of life in the late stages of life. Options for preserving the ability to manange ADL’s and resources for assistance should be discussed prior to them being needed. Having a back-up plan established can make the difference that ensures your loved one’s wishes are honored and their quality of life is preserved in dignity.

Preserving Dignity Promotes Independence and Autonomy…

Most people would agree that not everyone has what it takes to be a good caregiver. Caregivers, by nature, have a gift of compassion. They understand the emotion behind the tasks of activities of daily living. They promote dignity and integrity to honor those they care for. They understand the care they give is the same care they would want given to their own loved ones. Furthermore, they understand what most people don’t consider; they too may require help someday. It is true that family caregivers have the compassion and love, however some people would be embarrassed to have their daughter, son, or spouse care for their most private functions.

The Circle of Life Continues Despite our Best Efforts

The truth is, despite exercise, fitness, nutrition, or abstaining from destructive behaviors, every person will age. There is no fountain of youth. We can predict that there will be changes as we age but we can’t always predict in what capacity it will affect our lives. These are hard facts that we need to consider as we plan for our future. Fortunately, we have health care professionals and advocates to guide these important decisions. As a nurse, I have helped at least hundreds of people faced with these issues. My passion is for advocacy and fostering meaningful relationships that preserves the dignity and quality of life for every person while giving peace of mind to patients and their families.

Kim Parisi, RN
Director of Nursing



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