Activities of Daily Living: What Are 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