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Check back here frequently for the latest news related to seniors living a full and active life in their home. Please call if you see something of interest or if you would be interested in having a member of our leadership team speak to your organization on one of these topics please call, we’d be happy to oblige.

What are "Activities of Daily Living"?

Joe Tirio - Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Hands on walker


Activities of Daily Living, otherwise known as, "ADLs" are the core activities that a human must take part in during a day. The specific definition can vary depending on whom you are discussing this with. Insurance companies might see ADLs one way and medical practitioners may use a different definition. 


The following is a pretty good start on the most popularly understood ADLs.


  •  - Bathing: The ability for one to safely bathe oneself (either by way of immersive bath or standing/sitting shower).
  •  - Eating: Manipulating food on a plate and the ability to bring it to the mouth safely.
  •  - Toileting: Getting to the toilet in time without accidental discharge. Seating and rising from the commode and post elimination self-cleaning. Dressing oneself again.
  •  - Grooming/Hygiene: Caring for one's appearance and incidental cleanliness.
  •  - Mobility: The ability to rise from a seated position, descend from a standing position and walk about freely without assistance.

There is also a group of activities called "Instrumental ADLs" or "IADLs". These are not critical for mere existence, but rather allow you to live a safe, independent life. This list is open to even greater breadth of interpretation, but I believe most would include these activities in the list.

  •  - Using transportation: Managing to leave the home using personal or public transportation to accomplish a a task or socialize.
  •  - Medication Management: Organizing and self-administration of routine medications at the correct times and in the proper amounts.
  •  - Meal Preparation: Creating a meal properly and cleaning after the fact.
  •  - Housekeeping: Maintaining the cleanliness and appearance of one's home without assistance. Does not include repairs.

Most Long-Term Care (LTC) insurance policies and many community senior assistance programs require that the recipient demonstrate inability or diminished ability for ADLs and/or IADLs in order to qualify for assistance. This is usually determined by an in-home assessment by a medical professional. The problem often lies in the senior's desire to appear fully capable of nearly everything. When asked if they prepare their own meals, often times they will answer "Of course!". If the practitioner does not probe further, they may not come to know that all he eats is candy.

Some plans may acknowledge an individual's physical capability to perform the tasks and their mental incapacity that prevents them from performing them reliably. This is very often found with seniors who suffer from dementia. They are fully capable of taking their medicine, for example, but don't because their state of mind is such that they are not aware that they take medications because they believe that they are still in their 20's.

Physical capability to perform ADLs and IADLs can be impacted by such things as physical degenerative diseases like arthritis, dementia, stroke, heart disease. poor nutrition and even inadequate hydration.

Knowing what ADLs and IADLs are and how well your loved one can perform them is one way to assess their ability to live independently safely.

As always, if you should have any questions about this or any other senior related topic, please do not hesitate to call or write for more information.


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