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What Are Activities of Daily Living?

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Healthcare professionals use the term “activities of daily living”—also known as ADLs—as a measure of a person’s ability to function from day-to-day. These activities may include tasks that are essential to survival, as well as leisure tasks that may improve quality of life and allow a person to operate independently and without the need for care. For individuals who are elderly or disabled, the lifestyle assistance at an assisted living community such as BridgeWater may be required to perform these daily activities.

Background

The first attempt to index the activities of daily living was made during the 1950s by Dr. Sidney Katz and his team at the Benjamin Rose Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Katz sought to standardize the measurement of physical functioning for the patients there, as he believed that treatment for elderly and disabled patients needed to holistic, rather than simply focusing on individual injuries or illnesses.

Dr. Katz realized that day-to-day functioning was more nuanced and complex than simply asking if a person was capable of performing the tasks on a checklist. Rather than simply asking if a patient could dress themselves, for example, he broke this activity into its components. Could an individual get clothes from a drawer? Put them on? Button them up? By evaluating each step, Dr. Katz was able to create a clearer picture of a person’s ability to function day-to-day.

Basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Since Dr. Katz’s day, the consensus on the basics of daily living has changed somewhat. Nevertheless, there are five activities that most organizations agree upon. These are:

1. Hygiene

Basic grooming, showering, bathing, teeth brushing, and nail and hair care are included in this category.

2. Feeding

A person’s ability to feed themselves without assistance. This category does not extend to preparing food, however.

3. Mobility

A person’s ability to sit, stand, and walk independently from place to place. This category also includes a person’s ability to get in and out of bed.

4. Continence

This category asks if a person is able to use the restroom on their own. This includes getting onto and off of the toilet, as well as cleaning themselves after.

5. Dressing

This is the ability to choose appropriate clothing, as well as put it on and take it off without assistance.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

These activities are considered less critical for survival, but nevertheless are key for a person’s ability to function independently in society.

1. Preparing Meals

This activity includes shopping, storing groceries, cooking, and preparing meals.

2. Transportation

A person’s ability to transport themselves from place to place. This includes the ability to operate a vehicle as well as utilize public transportation.

3. Communication

This measures a person’s ability to use basic communication technology, such as phones, email, and the internet.

4. Basic Housework

This includes the ability to perform basic household tasks such as taking out the trash, tidying up, and doing laundry.

5. Finance

A person’s ability to handle their own finances, including working within a budget and paying bills. It also measures a person’s ability to avoid scams.

6. Medications

This category measures a person’s ability to get their prescriptions filled as well as take medicine on time and in the correct dosages.