Health and Fitness
IADLs vs ADLs: What Is the Difference?

IADLs vs ADLs: What Is the Difference?

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iadls vs adls

Are Daily Living Activities Becoming Challenging for You?

A very challenging aspect of growing old is the prospect of losing the ability to perform everyday tasks with comfort and confidence. This is particularly true for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, many patients require assistance and support in order to complete their everyday tasks. There are two types of daily routines for every senior out there. These are: (i) Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and (ii) Instrumental Activities for Daily Living (IADLs).

What’s the difference between ADLs and IADLs? Why do they matter in a patient’s care after a life-altering disease or injury? Throughout this article, we will find out the key dissimilarities between the two.

It’s important to remember that both are required for an individual to function comfortably on a daily basis. Individuals who require assistance with ADLs and IADLs can find many in-home care services that cater to their specific needs and preferences. It’s critical to grasp the differences between the two concepts if you have an aging loved one who requires care and help.

What Are ADLs?

ADLs are personal care activities that we perform every day. These include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and more. They are essential for maintaining a deeper level of independence. The reason is that the ability to perform ADLs indicates how much external aid a person may need.

ADLs are activities that are crucial for living in a community. For instance, actions you perform when you wake up in the morning, like freshening up and eating breakfast. These are very basic functions of life, and the inability to perform them will mean the senior will need a caregiver. A family member or a live-in caregiver will need to assist the senior with ADLs in such a case.

What Are the 7 ADLs?

The 7 basic ADLs include eating, bathing, grooming, toileting, continence, ambulating, and functional mobility.

    • Eating: Feeding yourself and getting all essential nutrients and vitamins
    • Bathing: The ability to use the shower and clean your body
    • Dressing and grooming: The ability to dress and maintain personal hygiene
    • Toileting: Recognizing the need to use and ability to use the toilet
    • Continence: Control of bowel and bladder, and related actions
    • Walking (or otherwise known as ambulating): Moving around with ease
    • Functional mobility: Changing body position 

Another example of ADL is the use of personal care devices. These are items like hearing aids, glasses, prosthetics, and such. Even if you aren’t able to carry out some of these activities, you don’t necessarily have an ADL disability. 

Certain activities do serve as strong indicators. For example, losing the ability to eat can be a sign of extreme functional disability.

A senior woman washing vegetables

What Are the IADLs?

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more complex than ADLs. Examples include shopping, managing finances, housekeeping, and others. The ability to perform IADLs is a stronger sign of independence. Even so, seniors who cannot perform certain IADLs may still be considered independent.

    • Shopping: Taking care of all your shopping needs, like grocerie
    • Managing finances: Managing financial matters, like budgeting and bills
    • Managing transportation: Traveling on public transport or driving your car
    • Meal preparation: The ability to plan, prepare, and serve adequate meals
    • Home maintenance: Tidying up after yourself (dishwashing, bed-making, etc.
    • Managing communication: Operating the telephone
    • Responsibility for own Medications: Intake in proper dosages at the right time
    • Religious and spiritual activities: Carrying out religious practices and rituals

Other examples of IADLs include taking care of pets and abiding by safety procedures.

IADLs vs ADLs: The Key Differences

ADLs are everyday necessities related to personal care. IADLs may not be required daily. IADLs add value to your daily life and supplement ADLs. However, they may not directly affect your everyday routine. ADLs include eating, bathing, grooming, and toileting. IADLS includes shopping, cooking, laundry, and housework.

Brushing your teeth and eating breakfast- examples of ADLs that we need to perform every day. They aid in ensuring we are healthy and fit. However, we don’t need to do IADLs like grocery shopping or calculating bills every day. To an extent, you may not even need to take medication daily.

Basic everyday tasks  Supplemental tasks to live independently 
Simple tasks   More complex tasks 
Does not require much planning and time  May require some planning and time 
Examples: Eating, bathing, walking, grooming, etc.  Examples: Money management, grocery shopping, transportation, cooking, etc. 
A senior woman cutting a bright orange fish

How Can We Measure the Loss of ADLs and IADLs?

Determining the extent of loss of an ADL or IADL is important to help ensure appropriate care and support. For this, various entities have developed several checklists. The questions in these checklists are similar, but how they’re asked makes a big difference. 

Among many other checklists, Katz Index and Lawton Scale are the most used tools.

Katz Index

The Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living, or Katz ADL, is the most ideal method for assessing functional status of a senior’s capacity to do activities of daily living independently.
Doctors often use the instrument to discover issues with daily living tasks and to schedule their care plans. There are 6 functional indexes to measure the ability of seniors to perform daily activities. They are:

  1. Bathing
  2. Dressing
  3. Toileting
  4. Feeding
  5. Continence
  6. Transferring

Full function is indicated by a score of 6, moderate impairment by a score of 4, and severe impairment by a score of 2 or less

Lawton Scale

The Lawton IADL Scale evaluates a person’s capacity to accomplish some daily tasks.

    • They involve
    • Using the phone
    • Doing laundry

It can be administered in 10 to 15 minutes and measures eight domains. The scale may indicate the need for further evaluation or provide an early warning of functional impairment.

How Significant Are These IADL and ADL?

Understanding IADL vs. ADL will help older adults to determine their physical and mental health. You may consider it a simple task of ticking through a checklist of activities. However, that isn’t the case. You should always consult with a doctor. A doctor will provide the proper diagnosis and identify factors that you might miss out. Even if you use the checklists mentioned above for a self-diagnosis, please show them to a doctor.

A doctor can also determine whether patients will need further rehabilitation or support.
It’s also crucial to recognize the impact of a loss of ADL on the patient. It will affect the cost of arranging Senior Living options such as assisted living or home care services and insurance policies for disabilities and long-term care.

iadl vs adl
iadl vs adl


IADL vs ADL – it’s an important topic of discussion among many doctors. Proper diagnosis of these activities aids in providing better treatment. 

IADL and ADLs are quite distinct from each other and have separate checklists. However, studies have been conducted to see whether they can be combined into a single scale to measure functional disability. Here is one such study on combining ADLs and IADLs. Here is a study on disability trends in older adults.

As we’ve learned, ADL and IADL consist of several basic and complex activities. They are essential for maintaining an independent lifestyle. They work as useful indicators to determine the early stages of certain diseases. It’s because they act as a measure of one’s ability to care for oneself.

If you or your loved ones need help with ADLs or IADLs, reach out to us and we’ll help you connect with Home Care Services or Assisted Living Facilities in Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, and other cities in the U.S.


How do ADLs differ from IADLs? 

There are key differences between IADLs and ADLs. IADLs are more complex and involve more coordination than ADLs. Also, IADLs are often associated with higher levels of independence than ADLs. 

How does cognitive ability relate to ADL and IADL? 

Cognitive ability is related to ADL and IADL in that those with more cognitive ability are better able to perform activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living. This is likely due to the fact that those with more cognitive ability are better able to problem solve, remember instructions, and make decisions. 

Is Cooking an ADL?

Cooking as a whole is an IADL. After all, food can be managed from external sources. The ability to eat is an ADL. We don’t need to cook every day, but we definitely need to eat every day!

Is Sleep an ADL or IADL?

Sleeping and taking rest is part of ADLs because it is a necessity. The amount of sleep we get directly affects our health. 

Is Laundry an example of IADLs?

Yes, doing laundry is considered an IADL. It improves your daily life, but you don’t need to do it every day. It is, however, relevant to your hygiene. The ability to groom yourself is an ADL. Brushing teeth, bathing are activities you need to do every day for your health.

What Are ADLs Skills?

The basic ADL skills include having a minimum sense of understanding of what is good and what is bad for you. Also, having the motor skills to carry out daily tasks to ensure your well-being

What Is ADL in Therapy?

Occupational therapists will aid in improving your ability to perform ADLs. They will go through a checklist to determine your health status. Based on that, they apply the suitable treatment. Seniors in the US can find occupational therapy through the American Senior Communities.

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April 2, 2022 - 6:33 am

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Gal Jerman
July 31, 2022 - 4:14 pm

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