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Activities Of Daily Living (ADLs) Explained

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 9:32:08 AM

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are terms used by health professionals in the senior care industry to help measure a person's level of functioning in performing everyday tasks and chores.

This measurement can be useful for assessing the elderly in order to evaluate the type and level of care services an individual may require. Several evaluation tools can be utilized, such as the Katz ADL scale and the Lawton IADL scale.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

In the senior care industry a person who requires assistance with ADLs may be evaluated by a social worker or a qualified medical professional. ADLs consist of the following self-care tasks:

  • Bathing
  • Continence
  • Dressing & Undressing
  • Eating
  • Toileting (ability to use a restroom by oneself)
  • Transferring (from bed to chair and back)
  • Walking (not bedridden)

In certain senior housing facilities, the number of ADLs that one may require assistance with is used to determine the resident's level of care and in some cases may effect the cost of services.

In the United States, most medical insurance policies do not cover the cost of assistance with ADLs, however, most long term care insurance policies will cover some or all of the costs where assistance with ADLs is required.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Where ADLs address one's ability to function fundamentally, IADLs cover the more nuanced and complex social activities in one's life. IADLs may include but are not limited to:

  • Light housework and chores
  • Meal preparation and cleanup
  • Managing of finances
  • Managing of medications
  • Shopping (groceries, clothing, household supplies, etc.)
  • Using the telephone (dialing, retrieving numbers, etc.)

Occupational therapists may also evaluate IADLs in order to complete a patient assessment. These include several other areas of IADLs that are generally optional in nature, and may be delegated to others. These areas include:

  • Care of others
  • Care of pets
  • Child rearing
  • Community mobility
  • Health management & maintenance

Many seniors who live independently can perform most or all IADLs sufficiently. Difficulty in performing some IADLs can be used to indicate where help is needed. It is common for family caregivers to provide assistance with IADLs. This is a great way to allow the senior to remain at home as long as possible, delaying the need for long term care.

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