Senior Living
Activities of Daily Living – Everything You Need to Know

Activities of Daily Living – Everything You Need to Know

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independence day activities for seniors


Eventually, we all reach a point in our lives when our bodies undergo significant changes, and we find ourselves unable to do the things that we used to, even the little everyday things. When we begin to observe that we cannot do daily activities on our own, we should not ignore these signs and consider getting further assistance, like home care. There are several ways that we can measure our capacity to perform self-care activities, and one of the most effective and commonly used methods is the activities of daily living scale. There are two subcategories for this scale: the basic activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL).

ADL is a concept that was coined by Sidney Katz in the 1950s and has since then been a key instrument in measuring capacity levels in daily living activities among people with injuries, disabilities, and older adults. It is essentially a list of basic self-care activities. Over the years, several developments have been made, but there are two main distinctions: the ADL and IADL. Before we go into the specifics of each type, it is essential to know first the difference between them.

What Is the Difference between ADL and IADL?

activities of daily living list

The main difference between ADL and IADL is that ADL consists of basic self-care activities essential for daily living, such as eating and bathing. IADL are more complex tasks that are mainly measured to determine the capacity of the senior to perform daily activities in a community, like going grocery shopping and paying bills.

What Is the Activities of Daily Living Scale?

The Katz ADL lists items containing specific activities that assess a person’s capacity to perform basic ADLs. It is more on the general daily activities and does not go into detailed and more complex ones, but it is of great use in getting the bigger picture and establishing a shared understanding of what ADLs are and what they are for. This information is beneficial to healthcare professionals for them to provide better care for patients.

The following are the items in the basic ADL:

  • Continence – Being able to control bladder and bowel movement
  • Bathing –  Being able to wash on their own in the shower or bath
  • Feeding – Being able to eat independently
  • Dressing – Being able to dress on their own and maintain good grooming
  • Transfering – Being able to move around, like getting up from the bed and move to a chair
  • Toileting – Being able to use the toilet and clean up after

Activities of Daily Living Checklist 

As we age, it’s important to keep track of our daily activities to make sure we are staying healthy and active. This checklist is a great way for seniors to keep track of their daily activities and make sure they are keeping up with their physical and mental health. Checklist items include: 

  • Taking medications as prescribed  
  • Eating a balanced diet 
  • Bathing and dressing up in clean clothes 
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day  
  • Getting enough sleep  
  • Socializing with friends and family  
  • Doing mental exercises such as puzzles or memory games 
  • Keeping up with personal hygiene  
  • Regular toileting and cleaning up after 
  • Monitoring one’s mood and mental state  
  • Checking in with doctor or caretaker regularly 

What Is the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale?

The IADL scale is mainly used in assessing the ability of people to live independently. It contains more items that go beyond a person’s basic needs. It also measures other activities that are essential for everyday living.

Areas measured in this scale are:

  • Shopping for essentials like clothes and food
  • Preparing their meals
  • Handling their finances and paying bills
  • Driving or commuting on their own
  • Handling communication like writing mail or using the telephone
  • Acquiring and taking medication according to schedule
  • Maintaining the house, do proper cleanups, and organizing

Instrumental activities of daily living examples 

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are typically composed of tasks related to housekeeping, shopping, meal preparation, and transportation. Although IADLs are not required for basic survival, they play an important role in maintaining independence and quality of life.  

For example, being able to cook a healthy meal or drive to the store can help to promote good nutrition and prevent isolation. Individuals who are unable to perform IADLs may require assistance from family, friends, or caretakers in order to maintain their independence.

What is the Purpose of ADL and IADL Scales?

activities of daily living list

Aside from measuring a senior’s performance level on daily living tasks, the ADL and IADL scales are also for people who are recovering from injury and are undergoing rehabilitation. In rehabilitation, both are essential in making sure that one can live an active life, but ADL takes precedence over IADL. Once the ADL part is covered, it is ideal to move on to the IADL activities. For example, once established that the person can handle properly eating, the next step would be meal preparation.

ADL and IADL are widely used by physiotherapists when identifying seniors’ functional abilities and any problems they may have. Since having difficulties with everyday tasks may also point to other health problems, it is essential to have this basic assessment. Treatment for ADL difficulties is done through physical therapy to increase strength and decrease pain from joints. Physiotherapists also encourage exercise and create programs aimed at improving the performance of ADLs.

Studies have shown that physical therapy has helped seniors in several ways, such as increased physical strength, better mobility, and reduced risk of falls. Regular exercise is an excellent way to help prevent ADL disabilities. It is vital to keep an active lifestyle early on and get proper exercise to maintain physical health. After all, prevention is better than cure.

What Causes Difficulty in Performing ADLs?

Difficulty in performing ADLs stems from several causes. One of the primary and most natural causes is aging. The slow decline of several physical and mental functions due to old age leads to decreased ADL abilities. Another one could also be side effects from medication.

Older people who have been hospitalized have also experienced difficulties with ADLs. Many seniors admitted for acute illnesses had a significant decline in ADL skills upon discharge.

The home environment can also be a cause, like being socially isolated, which negatively impacts a person’s general well-being. It is crucial to consider the environment that a senior is in and make sure that they are still living comfortably in their homes. There are different solutions available when someone cannot have the best care within their own homes, and one of them is getting professional care.

Long-Term Care Activities of Daily Living 

activities of daily living list

In the case of the senior found out to require assisted care, there are several options for this to be arranged. One option is to have a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). A CNA’s job is mainly to provide care to patients, including bathing, dressing, monitoring medication, and checking temperature. When we are unable to provide primary care for ourselves, a CNA will assist with all of our needs, making sure that we are as comfortable as possible.

Aside from nursing care, all healthcare professionals involved in caring for a person, like a physical therapist or occupational therapist, should work together to determine the best course of action for their patient. There should be regular assessments in ADL functionality to monitor any changes that may occur. After the whole team communicates and collaborates on different ideas and the situation is looked at from different angles, they can create an ideal plan to provide the best possible care.

Top 3 Points

1. ADLs consist of basic self-care activities essential for daily living. This can include eating and bathing. IADLs are more complex tasks like grocery shopping and managing finances.

2. ADLs and IADLs are widely used by physiotherapists when identifying seniors’ functional abilities and any problems they may have.

3. Difficulty in performing ADLs may be due to aging, health problems and side effects of medication.


Activities of daily living can be simplified into five basic tasks: bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating, and mobility. However, there are many things you need to know about these activities in order to maintain your independence and live a full life.

It might not be the smoothest transition to ADL assistance. But the earlier we accept that we need help, the easier it will be to handle the changes. There is no shame in admitting that we need help on certain things. Being able to acknowledge this only shows that we are not afraid of whatever challenge life may throw at us. And we are also ready to do whatever we can to make sure that we are ready in the best way possible. It is all about setting ourselves up for the long-term care we need. And having our basic needs taken care of will allow us to have more time to do other activities we love. Channeling our energy into the things that bring us joy will lead us to have more productive and happier lives.

It gives family members peace of mind when they know that their loved ones are adequately cared for. There is nothing more important than protecting and providing for our family. We can’t always do this by ourselves. Thus, the best thing we can do is make sure that we have the best care arrangement.


How can mental illness impact on activities of daily living? 

Mental illness can impact on activities of daily living in a number of ways. For example, people with mental illness may find it difficult to concentrate on tasks, may be less able to organize themselves, and may have problems with communication. This can make it difficult for them to hold down a job, manage their finances, or take care of themselves and their homes. 

How dementia affects activities of daily living? 

Dementia can affect activities of daily living in a number of ways. For example, people with dementia may have difficulty remembering how to complete tasks, or they may become confused about what they are supposed to do. They may also have trouble coordinating their movements, which can make completing everyday tasks more difficult. Additionally, people with dementia may experience changes in their mood or personality that can make it harder for them to interact with others. 

How does anxiety affect activities of daily living? 

Anxiety can have a significant impact on activities of daily living. It can cause people to feel overwhelmed and stressed, which can lead to a decline in productivity and motivation. Additionally, anxiety can often lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and muscle tension, which can further interfere with day-to-day tasks. 

How to assess activities of daily living? 

To assess activities of daily living, you can ask the person about their typical day and look for any changes in their routine. You can also observe the person as they complete everyday tasks to see how well they are able to perform them. 

What are functional limitations of activities of daily living? 

Functional limitations of activities are difficulties that a person experiences while completing daily tasks independently. It may also lead to disability and other complications. 

How to fill out activities of daily living form? 

When filling out activities of daily living form, you will be asked to list all the activities you perform on a daily basis. This may include things such as bathing, dressing, and eating. You will also be asked to rate how difficult each activity is for you to complete on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the most difficult. Be sure to list all of your activities, even if they are very easy for you to do. 

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