Activities of Daily Living

Over the last few years, the Social Security Administration has changed the way it decides disability cases.  The new key word is consistency.   The Commissioner of Social Security now looks for consistency in medical diagnoses, the medical chart of the claimants and consistency in the activities of daily living of claimants.  So, what exactly are “activities of daily living?”

A short answer is activities of daily living includes the things people do on a daily basis.  Often, Social Security asks what a person applying for disability does from the time she wakes until the time she goes to bed.  Because this is a very general question, Social Security often asks more detailed questions.

These questions might ask whether the person asking for disability takes care of another person (like a spouse, child, relative or neighbor) or takes care of a pet.  Normally, Social Security will want to know whether sleep is affected.  Also asked is whether the person can take care of his person needs (such as dressing, bathing, hair, shaving, feeding oneself, use of toilet and maintain personal hygiene.

The concept of “reminders” are an important part in understanding how someone functions throughout the day.  The reminders are normally centered on whether a person has a need for daily reminders to take care of his or her personal hygiene and taking medication.

Part of the activities of daily living also look into whether the person prepares his or her own meal and if so, what is the detail of that meal preparation.

Of course house work and yard work are familiar topics when understanding what a person does during the day, even though that person is too sick to work.  So too are the activities of travel (for example, driving to the store); shopping, handling money, and paying bills.

Social Security wants to know whether the person is able to continue with his hobbies.  Important are also social activities.  Social activities include not just going out to see others but also who may come to see the person.  How much time a person spends on social media is also asked.

Finally, how long a person can walk, sit, stand, lift and carry at one time and during the day factors into the activities of daily living picture.  (This list in not exclusive but you get the picture, all activities are considered.)

The source for the information of activities of daily living come primarily from the person seeking disability.  Other sources may include a spouse, friend and/or relative.  Taken together, all of the sources must be consist with the medical records in the file.  What does this mean?

Take for example a person suggests that she is very limited in what she can do in her own home, rarely goes outside, and spends most of her waking time on the living room couch.  The medical records reveal that she was seen in the emergency department to get stiches in her hand after she cut her finger in a cooking class.  Likely, the Commissioner will determine that the activities of daily living are not consistent with the other evidence in the record.  What does one inconsistency mean?  That answer will depend on the strength of the other evidence in the record.  That said, consistency is important.


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