What are ADLs?

ADL is an acronym that stands for: Activities for Daily Living. This term or phrase is often used in health care to help determine the functionality of older adults and the ability to live independently.

ADLs are generally tasks that are necessary to prepare for the day ahead, while focusing on self-care and maintaining good health.

These activities are often entrenched into our daily routines, and we may not give much thought about tackling and completing these tasks. That is, until health conditions arise that make these routine tasks much more strenuous and challenging to accomplish.

Examples of Activities for Daily Living for Seniors

There are several activities that people consider to be essential for an independent lifestyle. Specific tasks may vary from person to person, but there are some activities that are common elements of a typical daily routine.

Some of the most common ADLs are:

  • Fundamental mobility
    • This involves the ability to get out of bed in the morning and get around the house unassisted
  • Personal hygiene
    • Bathing or showering
    • Dental care
    • Grooming
    • Skin care
    • Foot care
    • Hair care
    • Shaving
  • Toileting
  • Feeding
    • Can eat without help
  • Dressing
    • Can select appropriate clothing and get dressed unaccompanied

Any tasks that are performed on a daily basis to cover essential human needs can be consider ADLs.

For many people these activities are automatic, but for older adults with health problems, these tasks can become unmanageable without the right assistance.

Assistance for ADLs can be found through a professional home care agency, like Affinity Health. Experienced and qualified caregivers are available to help with any ADLs your loved one may be struggling with.

ADLs are tasks that take care of basic human needs. There are a group of more complex tasks, that are also part of regular routines, called IADLs.

IADL – Instrumental Activities for Daily Living for Seniors

IADLs can be thought of as next level activities that also impact daily life, and the ability to live independently.

These tasks may require skills like organization, problem solving, decision making, and planning. They also often involve a certain level of strength and mobility.

Examples of IADLs, may include:

  • Housekeeping
  • Managing finances
  • Groceries and nutrition
  • Medication management
  • Transportation
  • Communication


Maintaining the home and carrying out household chores is a big part of independent living. An untidy or unkempt house can lead to health problems and compromised safety.

IADLs related to housekeeping, may include:

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Dishes
  • Organizing
  • Sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming

Managing Finances

Keeping your finances in order is also necessary for independent living. Making sure bills are paid on time, and monthly income is exceeding expenses, is essential for seniors that want to continue living at home.

Groceries and Nutrition

Good nutrition is extremely important for older adults to maintain physical health.

Making a grocery list that involves planning out nutritious meals for the week is the first step. Then there is shopping for groceries, bringing them home, putting them away, and preparing meals.

Medication Management

A lot of seniors are taking multiple medications at any given time. Keeping all the medications straight, and taking them as directed, can be a challenging task.

Effective medication management is crucial though, as medications taken improperly or missing doses, can result in the medication being ineffective.

People should also be aware of how medications interact with each other to avoid harmful side effects.


Getting around can become a hardship for seniors with mobility issues. It can be especially difficult for seniors that can no longer drive.

Other options are available though, including public transit and caregiver transportation assistance.


Staying in touch with family and friends is also important for overall health. Social isolation is a common problem for seniors, and can lead to severe depression.

The ability to operate telephones, computers, and other electronic devices is necessary for effective communication.

Measuring Senior ADL Functionality

If you have a loved one that may need some assistance with ADLs, a quick assessment can be done using the Katz Index of Independence in Activities for Independent Living.

The Katz Index looks at 6 ADL factors for independent living:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Transferring – getting in and out of bed or chairs
  • Continence
  • Feeding

This assessment is scored using a 1 or 0 for each activity. A score of 1 if the task can be done independently, a 0 if it cannot.

A score of 6 indicates the highest level of independence. For scores under 5, it may be the right time to consider professional caregiver assistance.