Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

There are two groups of daily living activities. These are referred to as the activities of daily living and the instrumental activities of daily living. The activities of daily living are basic, routine tasks, such as bathing, dressing, eating and using the toilet, that most people are able to perform on a daily basis without assistance.

The instrumental activities of daily living are more complex tasks that require a certain amount of physical dexterity, sound judgment and organizational skills. A senior’s ability (or inability) to adequately perform both groups of activities is usually reflective of that person’s ability to live safely and independently.

If you are searching for senior care or senior housing, then you should be familiar with the all of the activities of daily living. Why? Senior care and senior housing providers use both the activities of daily living and the instrumental activities of daily living as a baseline to create service plans (for assisted living) and care plans (in nursing homes), determine levels of care and set costs for care. As a senior’s need for assistance increases, so does the cost of the care and services provided (and sometimes the coverage, depending on the senior’s insurance).

Together, both groups of daily living activities are used to measure seniors’ functional abilities. Here’s a more detailed look at the activities of daily living and the instrumental activities of daily living.

Basic Activities of Daily Living

Most senior care providers and health professionals group the activities of daily living into the following six categories:

Bathing: includes grooming activities such as shaving, and brushing teeth and hair

Dressing: choosing appropriate garments and being able to dress and undress, having no trouble with buttons, zippers or other fasteners

Eating: being able to feed oneself

Transferring: being able to walk, or, if not ambulatory, being able to transfer oneself from bed to wheelchair and back

Continence: being able to control one’s bowels and bladder, or manage one’s incontinence independently

Toileting: being able to use the toilet

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

The instrumental activities of daily living include the following:

Using the telephone: being able to dial numbers, look up numbers, etc.

Managing medications: taking the appropriate medications and correct dosages on time

Preparing meals: making appropriate food choices and preparing meals safely

Maintaining the home: doing or arranging for housekeeping and laundry

Managing finances: budgeting, paying mortgage/rent and bills on time, etc.

Shopping: being able to shop for groceries and other small necessities, and transport purchases from store to home

Using transportation: being able to drive or use public transportation for appointments, shopping, etc.

Assessing a senior’s functional abilities helps the family and medical professionals determine that person’s current senior care needs. Over time, periodic assessments can be equally valuable, by showing patterns, predicting future needs and measuring either progress or decline.

Whether the senior is able to perform all of the activities of daily living independently, needs help with just a few or needs help with most of them, the assessment will help tailor the care plan to meet these needs.

Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong