Measurement Characteristics and Clinical Utility of the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills Among Older Adults

Published:November 04, 2019DOI:
      There is a strong desire for older adults to age in place and continue living at home.1 However, many factors affect the ability for older adults to live successfully in the community. Assessment of performance and independence in activities of daily living is essential in understanding the amount and type of assistance needed for successful community living in this population. The Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills (KELS) is an observation- and interview-based assessment used in inpatient or outpatient facilities to evaluate function in the areas of self-care, safety and health, money management, community mobility and telephone, and employment and leisure participation for older adults.2 This 17-item measure rates individuals’ performances in these areas as Independent, Needs Assistance, or Not Applicable, ultimately resulting in a final score that indicates the level of assistance an individual would need to live independently in the community.2 The KELS is psychometrically sound for the older adult population, exhibiting adequate to excellent validity measures.1,3 The KELS has been translated into several languages and shown to be valid across different cultural groups and settings.2 The scoring manual and scoring forms are available for purchase from the American Occupational Therapy Association online store for $99 for American Occupational Therapy Association members and $140 for nonmembers.
      This abbreviated summary provides a review of the psychometric properties of the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills (KELS) in older adults. A full review of the KELS and reviews of over 440 other instruments for patients with various health conditions can be found at
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      This instrument summary is designed to facilitate the selection of outcome measures by clinicians. The information contained in this summary represents a sample of the peer-reviewed research available at the time of this summary’s publication. The information contained in this summary does not constitute an endorsement of this instrument for clinical practice. The views expressed are those of the summary authors and do not represent those of authors’ employers, instrument owner(s), the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Measures Database or the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The information contained in this summary has not been reviewed externally.
      The Rehabilitation Measures Database and Instrument Summary Tear-sheets were initially funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), Administration for Community Living, United States Department of Health and Human Services, through the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Improving Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Outcomes (H133B090024). Current funding for the Rehabilitation Measures Database comes from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the first-ever “translational” research hospital where clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, applying research in real time to physical medicine and rehabilitation.
      • 1.
        Zimnavoda T, Weinblatt N, Katz N. Validity of the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills (KELS) with Israeli elderly individuals living in the community. Occup Ther Int 2002;9:312-325
      • 2.
        Kohlman L, McGourty L. Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills. Seattle: KELS Research; 1978.
      • 3.
        Pickens S, Naik A, Burnett J, Kelly PA, Gleason M, Dyer CB. The utility of the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills test is associated with substantiated cases of elder self-neglect. J Am Acad Nurse Pract 2007;19:137-142
      • 4.
        Naik A, Burnett J, Pickens-Pace S, Dyer CB. Impairment in instrumental activities of daily living and the geriatric syndrome of self-neglect. Gerontologist 2008;48:388-393
      • 5.
        Burnett J, Dyer C, Naik A. Convergent validation of the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills as a screening tool of older adults’ capacity to live safely and independently in the community. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2009;90:1948-1952.