Q & A: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 25 August 2011

If you’re considering assisted living or home care services for yourself or a loved one, you’ve likely encountered some unfamiliar terminology (check out prior posts on commonly used acronyms in senior living).

One of the terms used most frequently is activities of daily living, or ADLs (another acronym referenced often is IADLs, instrumental activities of daily living). Both apply to an individual’s level of independence/need for assistance.

Q: What activities are considered ADLs? IADLs?

A: The five basic personal care tasks we perform on a daily basis: bathing, feeding, toileting, dressing, and transferring (getting out of bed/into bed, moving from a sitting to standing position, etc.). Instrumental activities of daily living are more complex and not necessarily completed each day: laundry, shopping, housekeeping, managing finances, food preparation, transportation, medication administration, and using the telephone.

Q: What do ADLs/IADLs have to do with senior care?

A: Those considering assisted living/other care options will first be assessed by a senior care professional (nurse, medical social worker, physician, or geriatric care manager); their evaluation will be based primarily on the individual’s ability to handle these activities independently and safely. If the individual can complete all ADLs/IADLs without any assistance, independent living is probably the most appropriate setting; those who require minimal assistance should consider assisted living; and individuals who require help with all tasks may need 24-hour care.

There are 2 Comments about this post

  1. Dale D. Pelton says,

    What you do not say is what you need to say. Assisted living facilities, by virtue of the covenants of their licenses, cannot provide clinical care. They do not have licensed nursing staff 24/7, and they are precluded from rendering the higher-intensity clinical services that are provided in a skilled nursing facility. Assisted living facilities are not a substitute for licensed, skilled nursing facilities.


    on 01 November 2011 / 5:29 PM

  2. Dale, thanks for your comment. You’re right, most assisted living facilities do not provide a full range of clinical care services at the same level as a nursing home. However, I wouldn’t say that assisted living never provides clinical services, because some do (whether they are brought in or available elsewhere on campus, say in a CCRC setting). I reviewed some of the major differences between nursing homes and assisted living in this post: http://www.seniorsforliving.com/blog/2011/10/13/assisted-living-and-nursing-homes-whats-the-difference/. Certainly assisted living is not a substitute for skilled care, it’s simply another option that works better for some. Unfortunately many skilled care facilities are licensed to provide higher levels of care, but due to staff shortages, that care is not always provided well.
    Thanks again for your comment and for stopping by the blog!


    on 02 November 2011 / 11:46 AM


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