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Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Professionals who work in aging often want to know whether an elder needs help with their “ADLs or IADLs.”

These terms stand for Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are key life tasks that need to manage daily in order for a person to live at home and be fully independent.

elderly woman family caregiverIf you’re a family caregiver, it is best to familiarize yourself with these terms and their related skills.

Difficulties with ADLs and IADLs correspond to how much help, supervision, and hands-on care an older person needs.

This level of care can determine the cost of care at a facility, whether someone is considered “safe” to live at home, or even whether a person is eligible for certain long-term care services and benefits.

Basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

ADLs can be broken down into the following categories:

Personal Hygiene

– The ability to do grooming, teeth brushing, nail and hair care.


– The mental and physical ability washing one’s face in a sink and body in the bath or shower.

Continence Management

– A person’s mental and physical ability to properly use the bathroom including getting to the toilet, cleaning oneself, and getting back up.


– The mental and physical ability to select and dress in the proper clothes for different occasions and appropriately for the weather.


– The ability to feed oneself, though not necessarily the capability to prepare the food.


– The extent of a person’s ability to moving themselves from a seated to standing position and get in and out of bed.


– The ability to walk or otherwise getting around the home or outside. The technical term for this is “ambulating.”

Each of these categories affects a person’s ability to care for themselves can mean the difference between graceful and independent aging and needing daily assistance.

Financially, it also can determine the eligibility of an elderly or disabled person to receive state and Federally-funded government assistance or to qualify for reimbursements from privately owned Long Term Care Insurance policies (LTC insurance).

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are more complex tasks but are also tasks that a person needs to manage in order to live at home and be fully independent.

IADLs can be broken down into the following categories:

Preparing Meals

– The mental and physical ability to do meal planning, cooking, clean up, storage and safely use kitchen equipment and utensils


– Cleaning, washing dishes, dusting, vacuuming, removing trash and clutter, doing laundry and folding clothes to maintain a hygienic home as well as keeping up with home maintenance.

Managing Medications

– The mental and physical ability to keep up to date on medication needs, taking them as directed at the correct times and dosages.

Companionship and Mental Support

– This is a fundamental and much needed IADL for daily living. It reflects on the help that may be needed to keep a person in a positive and healthy state of mind.


– A person’s a mental and physical ability either by driving oneself, arranging rides, using public transportation, to get to the store and back to purchase their groceries, pharmacy needs and other supplies without help


– A person’s a mental and physical ability to select and make appropriate food and clothing purchase decisions, take care of their pharmacy needs and other needs without help. The ability to correctly shop is a different task than getting to the store.

Communicating With Others

– The ability to managing the household’s phones to make and receive calls, handle the mail and generally making the home hospitable and welcoming for visitors.

Managing Finances

– The ability to managing bank balances, checkbooks and paying bills on time.

People or their loved ones, often begin asking for outside assistance when these basic tasks become difficult to manage independently.

Even though there are distinctions between ADLS and IADLs, the term activities of daily living often refer to both.

ADLs And IADLs Assessments Are Important

Individuals need to be able to manage their ADLs and IADLs in order to live independently without the assistance of another person.

Professionals assess ADLs and IADLs as part of determining a person’s ability to “function.”

Issues with ADLs and IADLs reflect problems with the individual’s physical health and/or cognitive health.

Identifying these functional difficulties is used to diagnose and manage important health problems.

Determining functional difficulties is also required for developing a Care Plan to get the help and support needed.

ADLs and IADLs assessments are a critical part of getting financial assistance from the different payers of care such as Medicaid, the VA, state programs and Long-Term Care insurance.

About Unique HomeCare Services

Unique HomeCare Services provides private in-home care for elders, those with special needs, and people who are recuperating from illness, injury, or surgery.

We offer a full range of in-home care services such as personal care, grooming and incontinence care, bathing and dressing, post-hospitalization care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, and medication management.

We also provide non-medical support services; such as meal planning and preparation, light housekeeping, caring companionship, shopping/errands, accompanying to medical and other appointments, as well as case management services.

It is our pleasure to assist our veteran clients with VA Aid and Attendance Benefit approval at no cost.

Our service area is Boston, Norwood, Dedham, Westwood, Walpole, Canton, Sharon, Stoughton, Avon, Braintree, Easton, Milton, Quincy, Weymouth, and surrounding towns.

To schedule a no cost and no obligation full In-Home Assessment to determine the home care needs of you or your loved one please call us at (800) 296-9962 to speak to a Case Manager or fill out our Free Quote Contact Form.