What are the Activities of Daily Living?

What are the Activities of Daily Living?
Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are used by senior care providers to determine what type of and how much care and older adult requires. They are also used to create care plans for each senior and to establish fees.
An Overview of the Activities of Daily Living
The activities of daily living are routine tasks most people are able to perform on a daily basis without assistance. Most senior care providers and health professionals group the activities of daily living into the following categories:
  • Dressing: Being able to dress and undress, choose appropriate clothing for the weather and have the dexterity to manage buttons, zippers and other fasteners
  • Eating: The ability to feed oneself (not including cooking)
  • Bathing or Showering: This includes grooming activities such as shaving and brushing teeth and hair
  • Continence: Being able to control bowels and bladder or to manage incontinence independently
  • Toileting: The ability to use the toilet and get to the toilet independently
  • Transferring: This refers to functional mobility.  For most people, functional mobility is being able to walk, get in and out of bed, and into and out of a chair. If the person is not ambulatory, they should be able to transfer from bed to wheelchair on their own. 
Understanding the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
The instrumental activities of daily living are more complex tasks that require a certain amount of physical dexterity, sound judgment and organizational skills.  The instrumental activities of daily living include the following:
  • Using the telephone independently
  • Taking the appropriate dose of medication at the appropriate time
  • Planning menus, making healthy food choices and preparing meals safely
  • Maintaining the home or arranging for housekeeping and laundry from an in-home care aide or other service
  • Managing finances such as budgeting, paying the bills on time, managing a checkbook
  • Being able to shop for groceries and other necessities and safely transporting them home
  • The ability to drive or use public transportation for appointments or shopping
Doctors, rehabilitation specialists and senior living professionals often evaluate ADLs and IADLs as part of an older person’s functional assessment.  Difficulty managing IADLs is often an early indicator of other health problems. This assessment can help guide seniors and their loved ones in determining what kind of assistance an older person may need on a day-to-day basis.
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