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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Fischetti

A Brief Guide to the Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

The following article originally appeared on Ready Set Care:

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) describe the basic activities of daily life that a person needs to be able to do to care for themselves. The basic activities of daily living (Basic ADLs) include:

  1. Bathing

  2. Dressing (and undressing)

  3. Eating

  4. Grooming and Personal Hygiene (Includes personal care, such as hair care, shaving, brushing your teeth, and showering on a regular basis)

  5. Toileting (Includes proper continence)

  6. Transferring

  7. Walking / Ambulating

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are a list of everyday tasks related to independent living that a person needs in order to care for themselves and live on their own. Unlike ADLs, which refer to basic self-care tasks, IADLs are often more complex and indicates a person’s ability to live well on their own while maintaining a certain quality of life and well-being. IADLs include:

  1. Meal Preparation (Includes grocery shopping, Cooking/Preparing meals)

  2. Cleaning (Includes basic home maintenance, such as mowing the lawn and doing laundry)

  3. Navigating Transportation (Includes both driving and using public transportation)

  4. Medication Management

  5. Using the Phone

  6. Paying Bills (Includes organizational skills, such as being able to pay on time)

Why are ADLs/IADLs important?

ADLs/IADLs are an important factor in geriatric medicine for determining older adults’ functional status, and thus their eligibility for certain care services and benefit programs.

Your loved one’s ability to perform ADLs/IADLs can indicate the level of care they require and can highlight where their biggest care needs are. ADLs/IADLs are often an important qualification for long term care facilities, such as a skilled nursing home, memory care, or assisted living. They are oftentimes a good measurement of whether additional assistance, such as home care / home health, or a move to a senior living facility or assisted living community, may be helpful.

It is also often used as a qualification for Caregiver Compensation programs offered on a state-by-state basis through Medicaid . In general, a loved one must need assistance with at least 2 ADLs in order for a family member to get paid for his or her care and qualify as a “Family Caregiver.”

ADLs/IADLs are also valuable for assessing a person with early-stage disease, such as Alzheimer’s, to determine their level of impairment. For example, a person with later stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia may have trouble eating, whereas a person in the earlier stages may not.

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