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Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Professionals who work with seniors 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 be managed 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.

Difficulties with ADLs and IADLs correspond to how much help, supervision, and care an elder 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 their own grooming, brushing teeth, cleaning dentures, and nail and hair care.


• The mental and physical ability to wash 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 current weather.


• The ability to feed oneself, though not necessarily the capability to prepare their own food.


• The extent of a person’s ability to move from a seated to a standing position as well as get in and out of bed.


• The ability to walk or otherwise get 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 and can mean the difference between independent aging and needing daily assistance.

Financially, ADLs determine the eligibility of an elderly or disabled person to receive State and Federally-funded government assistance and to qualify for reimbursements from Long-Term Care Insurance.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more complex tasks but are tasks that also need to manage in order to live fully independently.

IADLs can be broken down into the following categories:

Preparing Meals

• The mental and physical ability to do meal planning, cooking, clean up, store 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 manage medication needs and take medications at the correct times and dosages.

Companionship and Mental Support

• Assistance that may be needed to keep a person in a positive and healthy state of mind.


• The ability by either driving themselves, arranging rides, or using public transportation, to get to the store and back to purchase their groceries, pharmacy needs and other supplies without help


• A person’s mental and physical ability to select and make appropriate food and clothing purchase decisions, and take care of pharmacy needs and other shopping needs without assistance. This is a decision making task, which is different from the task of getting to a store.

Communicating With Others

• The ability to use the phone to make and receive calls, handle the mail and generally make the home hospitable and welcoming for visitors.

Managing Finances

• The ability to manage bank balances, checkbooks and pay bills on time.

ADLs And IADLs Assessments Are Important

• Individuals or their loved ones, often begin asking for assistance when they notice the signs of difficulty with ADLs and IADLs.

• Even though there are distinctions between ADLS and IADLs, the term “Activities of Daily Living” is often used for both.

• 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” on their own.

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

• Identifying any functional difficulties with ADLs and IADLs is used to diagnose and manage health issues.

• Determining functional difficulties is required to develop a Care Plan to get the support needed.

• ADLs and IADLs assessments are a critical part of getting financial assistance from the various payers of care. such as Medicaid, the VA, State programs and Long-Term Care Insurance.

About Unique HomeCare Services

Our headquarters in Norwood, Massachusetts serves the Greater Boston communities in Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth counties.

We provide private in-home care for elders, those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and people who are recuperating from illness, injury, or surgery.

We provide both short-term and long-term in-home care needs from as little as one 4 hour day a week to 24 Hour Care and Live-In Care.

We offer a full range of in-home personal care services including Bathing Assistance, Personal Hygiene and Grooming, Dressing Assistance, Toileting and Incontinence Assistance, Feeding Assistance, and Medication Reminders.

We also provide support services such as Case Management, Accompaniment to Appointments, Nutrition and Meal Management, Light Housekeeping and Laundry Services, Bed and Wheel Chair Transfers, and Shopping and Running Errands.

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

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