Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

The term "activities of daily living" (ADLs) refers to daily self-care activities, such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, working, homemaking, and leisure. An ADL assessment is part of the evaluation used to determine the level of care most suitable for a person entering a senior living community, or transitioning between levels of care. The ability or inability to perform ADLs can be used as a measurement of the functional status of an elderly person.

While basic categories of ADLs have been suggested, what specifically constitutes a particular ADL in a particular environment for a particular person may vary. Adaptive equipment or devices may be used to enhance and increase independence in performing ADLs.

Basic ADLs consist of self-care tasks, including:

  • Bathing and showering
  • Dressing
  • Eating/feeding (including chewing and swallowing)
  • Functional mobility (moving from one place to another while performing activities)
  • Personal hygiene and grooming (including brushing/combing/styling hair)
  • Toilet hygiene

ADLs can sometimes be confused with IADLs, but ADLs and IADLs measure different things. IADLs stand for "instrumental activities of daily living" and focus more on the tasks needed to live independently. Examples could include using the telephone, shopping, meal preparation, managing one's finances, etc. These are the tasks that help determine whether an older adult can transition back into living at home, what tasks they need to work on, and what supports might be needed.