I’ve had some new insights about the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), the activities that we do each day that allow us to maintain an independent life. These tasks include things like driving, balancing a checkbook, cooking, and using the computer. From my perspective, after working with a parent who was ill with stroke-induced dementia, I’d also add exercising.
In 2009, when my husband’s mother was quite ill, I wrote a post called ADLs and IADLs: What’s the Difference? I wrote this post because I had not heard of these two types of activities — measures of a person’s independence. At the time, as I observed my mother-in-law’s decline, I associated them with aging — and aging only.
Now I know a bit more, and I realize that any of us can lose, temporarily, our capacity for IADLs — the ability to perform those all-important tasks of independent daily living.
I’ve written about the my retina problems over the past two years. What has surprised me at various points — unexpectedly — is the loss of my ability to perform many of the IADLs. At times, due to various treatments, I’ve been unable to use a computer, drive, exercise, or even cook efficiently, and I’ve not been at all happy about loosing my cherished independence. OK, at times I’ve been resentful. On another level, however, my experience offers me a bit more perspective on the adult child-aging parent relationship.
My frustration about not effectively performing these activities — the IADLs in my life — must be similar to the feelings of my mother-in-law or what other elders experience as they gradually lose the ability to do the things that make them feel independent and able to make their own decisions. How can a person losing the ability to do things not feel angry and resentful?
Any sickness that any of us experience offers us a mini-prism through which to gaze and remind ourselves that when these limitations occur — even temporarily — we cannot run our lives the way we wish. By looking through that prism, whether we just have the flu or remain out of commission for a few weeks while getting better from some ailment, we can use the experience to become more thoughtful about our aging parents’ challenges and frustrations. No matter how adjusted we think we are about aging, not one of us will welcome the time when we must permanently give up those tasks — IADLs that allow us to feel footloose and fancy-free.
So the next time you are laid-up for a few days and feeling sorry for yourself, take a bit of time to gain some perspective about independence and aging from a parent’s point of view.