Activities of daily living

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Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) is a term used in healthcare to refer to everyday self-care activities, in the framework of care of the disabled and the elderly. They are "the things we normally do in, including any daily activity we perform for self-care (such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming), work, homemaking, and leisure."[1] A number of national surveys collect data on the ADL status of the U.S. population.[2]

Health professionals routinely refer to the ability or inability to perform ADLs as a measurement of the functional status of a person.[3] This measurement is useful for assessing the elderly, the mentally ill, those with chronic diseases, and others, to evaluate what type of health care services an individual may need. There are several evaluation tools, such as the Katz ADL scale and the Lawton IADL scale.

Most models of health care service use ADL evaluations in their practice, including the medical (or institutional) models, such as the Roper-Logan-Tierney model of nursing, and the resident-centered models, such as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

In the US, most medical insurance policies will not cover assistance with performing ADLs, whereas such assistance is often covered by policies specific to long-term care.

Basic ADLs

The basic activities of daily living consist of these self-care tasks:[4]

  • Personal hygiene
  • Dressing and undressing
  • Eating
  • Transferring from bed to chair, and back
  • Voluntarily controlling urinary and fecal discharge
  • Elimination
  • Moving around (as opposed to being bedridden)

Instrumental ADLs

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are not necessary for fundamental functioning, but they let an individual live independently in a community:[5]

  • Doing light housework
  • Preparing meals
  • Taking medications
  • Shopping for groceries or clothes
  • Using the telephone
  • Managing money
  • Using technology (older generations may not be that technologically savvy since they were not as exposed to it during their lifetime.)

Occupational therapists also evaluate IADLs when completing patient assessments. These include 11 areas of IADLs that are generally optional in nature and can be delegated to others:[6]

  • Care of others (including selecting and supervising caregivers)
  • Care of pets
  • Child rearing
  • Use of communication devices
  • Community mobility
  • Financial management
  • Health management and maintenance
  • Meal preparation and cleanup
  • Safety procedures and emergency responses
  • Shopping

See also


  1. Medical Dictionary
  2. National Center for Health Statistics
  3. "Activities of Daily Living Evaluation." Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health. ed. Kristine Krapp. Gale Group, Inc., 2002. 2006.Enotes Nursing Encyclopedia Accessed on: 11 Oct, 2007
  4. McDowell, I., and Newell, C. (1996). Measuring Health: A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires, 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press
  5. Bookman, A., Harrington, M., Pass, L., & Reisner, E. (2007). Family Caregiver Handbook. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  6. "Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process." American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 609-637
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