Monday, May 3, 2010

Medical Mondays: Good Morning. How's your function?

Diseases get lots of airtime in the media. Horrible things, like leukiemia, Alzheimers, and what we call bread-and-butter problems like heart disease. But did you know your doctors also think about whether you can manage laundry?

The ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) are lists of thing you need to do in order to survive.

ADLs include bathing, brushing teeth, eating, dressing and undressing, going to the bathroom, and getting in and out of a chair.

IADLs are more complicated necessities of life: doing light housework, managing your money, grocery shopping, driving, taking meds, using the phone.

When patients accumulate enough medical problems, doctors start thinking about whether they can handle their ADLs and IADLs. If not, then things like nursing homes, home aides, getting more family help, etc start entering our minds.

How does this relate to writing?

On a character level, does your writing show your MC or others doing their ADLs too much?

Megan woke up, yawning. She shuffled into the bathroom, brushed her teeth and dutifully applied her zit-cream. After a quick trip to the toilet, noticing once again her little brother forgot to change the toilet paper...

I mean, does this stuff really further the story? I used to put ADL stuff in my writing, realizing I was boring my betas to death.

How does this relate to authors?

Just a word of advice. I'm sure you're all bathing and eating, but please don't forget to perform your IADLs when you're totally absorbed in writing! That brain fog can get really bad sometimes. Pay the bills! Make sure the milk doesn't go sour in the fridge! Or your doctor just might have to get you a home health aide.

Can you imagine?

"Hi, I'm Lydia. No, I'm not sick, it's just I need Lola the Home Health Aide because, well, I'm a writer."

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!


Matthew MacNish said...

This is funny but still a good point. Thank god I don't live alone or I might have to worry about this.

Thanks Lydia!

Vicki Rocho said...

Yup, sometimes I spend too much time on the ADLs, but thankfully I'm aware of this so can avoid it. I do, sometimes, write through the ADL anyway in order to get my brain where it needs to be for the next scene. I know I'll end up cutting it out, but I do it to keep up the flow for the moment.

B.E. Sanderson said...

LOL, I think I can use a home health aid - especially when I'm deep in a manuscript.

Thanks for the heads-up, Lydia. I'll have to go back through my work and make sure I'm not spending too much time on the ADLs.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I agree, the ADLs may be important in our lives but not in our stories.

I probably don't have to worry about getting lost in the writing brain fog - yet. I still have children to remind me of everything that needs to get done (like their laundry, dinners, etc).

Giles Hash said...

I think ADLs should only add up in the narrative if they are REALLY important to the advancement of the character. They're better to mention if a character DOESN'T do them for a specific depression...or if they don't make them a habit, so to show character growth, they suddenly take responsibility for their personal hygiene.

About Me said...

Add too much thinking about mundane things to that list. :)

Jayne said...

ADLs in writing - definitely not (unless it somehow furthers the story). But in real life - hm... I am probably a little guilty with IADLs... getting better though!

And as an aside, how lovely that you offer writers medical knowledge!

Emily Ann Benedict said...

I think pratical every writer can connect with this post. ;)
Erasmus was fond of saying, "When I have money I buy books. If there is anything left I buy food and clothing." :D

Hey, don't forget, I've got a giveaway on my blog today. :)

Talli Roland said...

Oh yay! Medical Mondays, I love these posts!

It's so true, Lydia. I often forget to go to the loo, meaning that I'm almost bursting by the end of the day. Is that too much information?

Anna Staniszewski said...

You know, sometimes it bothers me that fictional characters never have to use the bathroom, etc. But I'm sure reading about those kinds of things would be boring. I tend to keep daily life details out of my stories, but it does make me wonder about the "reality" of what I'm creating.

Cynthia Reese said...

Oh, so I'm not the ONLY one who forgets little things like that, huh??

Lindsay said...

The brain fog claims me from time to time too.
Some daily routine goes into my writing, but only little bits. I try never to overuse the ADL stuff either.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I haven't included too much in the way of ADL's in my manuscript but I do remember this being one of the things that annoyed me in twilight. She was constantly in and out of the shower and brushing her hair.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good post, Lydia. My manuscripts usually have a glaring absence of ADLs and IADLs, probably making my first readers feel uncomfortable when they realize my characters don't eat, brush their teeth, or use a bathroom. Obviously we shouldn't dwell on these things, but it's good to slip a hint or two into the story that our characters are normal humans.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Oh, wow. Really great point. TOTALLY bogged my first ever manuscript down with SO. MANY. ADLs that it ground the whole thing to a stop. *shudders to recall* NICE post!

Unknown said...

I love how daily life can be incorporated into writing, or not included I suppose. I try and watch the ADL's and I appreciate the remainders! People don't want to know EVERYTHING!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Such a great post! The brain fog is all consuming, but that's good, right? I mean, at least good for your writing. Maybe not so good for the people who have to live with you. :)

Happy Monday!!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

My ADLs run around screaming, demanding attention, regularly pulling me out of the BF. I would give quite a lot for longer, more frequent BF. But I agree there needs to be a balance. Thanks!

Unknown said...

That's too funny. I don't need a home health aid--that's why I had kids. ;-) My 21 yo has been having a hard time finding a job since he got out of school, so he's been doing some of the cleaning.

I do need to remember to get up an pee once in awhile. ;-) And get a drink of water. (which I go light on so I won't have to get up and pee so much. hehe)

Paul C said...

Love the medical metaphor for the writing process. It's a varied and important list.

Unknown said...

Haha! Can I put in a request for home help aide? lol! Great medical metaphors!

Unknown said...

I haven't performed one IADL today. What time is it? What day is it...?

I love your posts, Lydia! I totally agree. Too many ADL play-by-plays in fiction drags the pace to a screeching halt. Great reminder!

Natasha said...

Someone tries to cram as much into a day as you do, will definitely let the milk curdle in the fridge. You would be Superwoman if you don't.

Came over from Patricia's blog.

Mary E Campbell said...

Ha ha - I think I need a home health aide. All good points though. I try to keep ladls to a minimum.
Thanks for visiting my blog and becoming a follower.

Saumya said...

This is so helpful. I love the way you apply medicine to writing :)

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...


I love this post. There are times I definitely need help with both. :-)

Eeleen Lee said...

I agree with the ADL
Creativity does well behind closed doors or seclusion and going through an ADL helps to figuratively shut the door

Unknown said...

I love for Medical Monday posts! So interesting to learn about all these diseases/medical problems. And this came right after an intense review of the cardiovascular system -- very aptly timed.

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