Activities of Daily Living: What Are ADLs and IADLs?

adls and iadls
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Activities of daily living are basic self-care tasks, akin to the kinds of skills that people usually learn in early childhood. They include feeding, toileting, selecting proper attire, grooming, maintaining continence, putting on clothes, bathing, walking and transferring (such as moving from bed to wheelchair). Medical professionals also refer to these tasks as basic activities of daily living or ADLs.

Difference between activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living

ADLs, are often mentioned by geriatric care professionals in connection with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which are more complex skills needed to successfully live independently. These skills are usually learned during the teenage years and include the following:

  • Managing finances
  • Handling transportation (driving or navigating public transit)
  • Shopping
  • Preparing meals
  • Using the telephone and other communication devices
  • Managing medications
  • Housework and basic home maintenance

Together, ADLs and IADLs represent the skills that people usually need to be able to manage in order to live as independent adults.

Doctors, rehabilitation specialists, geriatric social workers, and others in senior care often assess ADLs and IADLs as part of an older person's functional assessment. Difficulty managing IADLs is particularly common in early Alzheimer's and other dementias. Assessing IADLs can help guide a diagnostic evaluation, as well as determine what kind of assistance an older person may need on a day-to-day basis.

Getting help with ADLs

There are a number of senior care services available today that can help seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living. For an aging loved one who lives with you or in their own home, in-home care can be a good option to ensure they get the help they need throughout the day. Most senior in-home care agencies provide help with the ADLs mentioned above such as grooming, bathing and dressing, as well as IADLs like housework, transportation and shopping.

Find more information about in-home care options

If your elderly loved one is thinking about downsizing from their current home, and needs assistance with ADLs and IADLs, a move to an assisted living community may be the solution. In addition to help with activities of daily living, assisted living communities today provide meals, housekeeping, transportation,and a wide range of amenities from regular social activities to classes and on-site gyms.

Find more information about assisted living options

over 1 year, said...

my question is discuss the effects of the five main factors of the model of living on the older persons ability to carry out the activities of daily livning

almost 2 years, said...


almost 3 years, said...

Thanks for the IADL as I've never seen them identified before, or certainly not as well done as this article

about 3 years, said...

Answer was clear and to the point. Not buried in the article. Thank you!

over 3 years, said...

This was very helpful to me in thinking about the things my husband's aunt is able to do for herself and what she can't do. It also helped me understand how far the progression of her Alzheimers has gone as well.

over 4 years, said...

I appreciate knowing the definitions of ADL and IADL but am not says they make assessment if one is able to stay at home. What about waivers? What are the criteria for that regarding IADL and ADL?

over 4 years, said...

thank you very helpful for me ????

over 5 years, said...

Good to have this information. As I complete my studies in gerontology, this will come in handy. Also, I have aged in my family who could use some help so, now I'll have a basis for judgment on what to do and when to ask for help.

almost 6 years, said...

Very nice.. thank you!!!

almost 7 years, said...

This was very helpful. I didn't know about the IADLs at all. Thank you.

over 7 years, said...

It was helpful reading the list of ADLs and IADLs to determine roughly Mom's place on the scale.

over 7 years, said...

Thank you!