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What Are Activities of Daily Living? Your Guide to ADLs & IADLs

July 1, 2022

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If you are looking into senior living options for yourself or someone you love, you may have seen the phrases “activities of daily living” (ADLs) or “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADLs). While many can assume what falls under these categories, you may not fully understand how these terms relate to what you are searching for or how they impact your care options.

Senior living communities, such as Franciscan Communities across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio use ADLs and IADLs to determine which type of senior living is right for an individual.

To help you and your family better grasp the concept of the activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living, our team at Franciscan Ministries is sharing how these terms apply to senior living and your level of independence.

Understanding Activities of Daily Living

The National Library of Medicine states that “activities of daily living (ADLs) is a term used to collectively describe fundamental skills required to independently care for oneself.”

These are skills and basic activities a person needs to be able to perform every day to lead a safe, healthy lifestyle. However, it’s common for some of these functions to decline as we grow older or health needs change. When this happens, assisted living and other types of senior living are available to help individuals maintain their independence and support them with these activities of daily living.

The five main activities of daily living include:

  • Mobility – Also referred to as ambulating or transferring, this means being able to move around or walk both inside and outside their home
  • Dressing – Selecting and putting on appropriate clothing
  • Eating – The physical act of eating, including the proper use of utensils
  • Personal hygiene – Includes all personal grooming activities such as shaving, nail care, brushing teeth, and safely showering or bathing
  • Toileting – Sometimes called continence, this refers to having control over the bladder/bowels as well as getting on and off the toilet safely

What Are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living?

According to the American Council on Aging, “IADLs are necessary for independent living, but are not as crucial to daily functioning as ADLs. This means they do not have to be done every single day.”

Instrumental activities of daily living are more complex tasks and require more critical thinking, organization and tactical skills. While they are not part of fundamental living, IADLs play a major role in enhancing our quality of life and enable us to lead fulfilling, independent lifestyles.

The instrumental activities of daily living include:

  • Transportation – Either driving, using public transportation or arranging other means of transportation such as rides with family members
  • Meal preparation – The ability to plan and prepare meals
  • Managing finances – Paying bills, managing bank accounts, etc.
  • Shopping – Buying essentials such as groceries, clothing, prescriptions and household supplies
  • Home maintenance – Cleaning and maintaining the home, doing the laundry, etc.
  • Communication – Staying in contact with friends, family and loved ones via telephone or computer
  • Medication management – The ability to obtain medications and take them properly

ADLs, IADLs and Independence

The activities of daily living and the instrumental activities of daily living directly impact a person’s level of independence. If your loved one is having difficulty with one or more of these activities, it may be time to consider additional care options, such as senior living.

By doing so, your family member will receive the support they need, so they can maintain their independence and enhance their quality of life. Our Franciscan Ministries assisted living communities treat residents like family, personalizing their care to their unique needs, lifestyle and passions.

If you or someone you love needs help with their daily routine, our caregivers are here to help. In addition to person-centered care, our communities offer activities such as gardening and fitness opportunities to align with the interests of residents. Our assisted living services focus on the seven dimensions of wellness to help individuals discover more purpose and meaning in their lives.

Visit our website or contact a member of our team to learn more about our Franciscan Communities across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.