Activities of Daily Living

When it comes to the care and well-being of the elderly, there is normally a lot of professional or medical jargon that lawyers or medical personnel sling around. The average person, however, usually doesn’t understand what all of it means and needs to ask for further clarification to know what the person is talking about. Thankfully, though, “activities of daily living” is not one of those terms.

So what are activities of daily living exactly?

Simply put, those are all the things that healthy people take for granted each and every day—the simple tasks that people use in order to properly take care of themselves throughout the day, and those that are normally learned in early childhood. They’re the basic tasks related to self-care, like feeding, toileting, selecting the right clothes, grooming, maintaining continence, putting on clothes, bathing, walking, and transferring (such as from a bed to a wheelchair). 

These activities of daily living (or ADLs) are often mentioned by geriatric-care professionals in conjunction with what are called instrumental activities (or IADLs), which are oftentimes the more complex skills that an individual learns over time.

And what are instrumental activities of daily living?

These skills are the more complex ones that a person needs in order to be able to live and function properly on their own. They are normally learned during our teenage years, and can include the following:

  • Managing finances
  • Handling transportation (like driving or navigating public transit)
  • Shopping
  • Meal preparation
  • Using the phone or other communication devices
  • Managing medications
  • Housework and/or basic home maintenance

Taken altogether, both of these skillsets (ADLs and IADLs) make up those skills that people normally require in order to manage and live their lives independently as adults.

Many doctors, rehabilitation specialists, geriatric social workers, and others working in senior care will often assess both ADLs and IADLs as a part of an elder’s functional assessment. People will normally have some difficulty managing their IADLs if they are suffering from the early stages of a mental disease like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Getting a person’s IADLs assessed can help to provide a diagnostic evaluation, and also help to find out what type of assistance someone may need on either a daily or consistent basis.