Activities of Daily Living: Six Basic ADLs

Discover the key to independence: instrumental activities of daily living. Explore their significance and impact on daily life.

October 27, 2023

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Introduction to ADLs

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are the basic self-care tasks that individuals typically perform on a daily basis to take care of themselves and maintain their well-being. These activities are essential for maintaining independence and quality of life. ADLs encompass a wide range of tasks that are necessary for personal care and functioning.

The Six Basic ADLs

The Six Basic ADLs serve as a framework for understanding and assessing an individual's ability to independently carry out essential self-care tasks. These activities are fundamental to an individual's ability to live independently and include:

  1. Personal hygiene: This involves tasks such as bathing, grooming, brushing teeth, and maintaining oral hygiene. It also includes activities related to toileting, such as using the toilet and managing personal hygiene afterward.
  2. Dressing: Dressing refers to the ability to choose appropriate clothing, put it on, and fasten it. This includes tasks such as buttoning shirts, zipping up pants, and tying shoelaces.
  3. Eating: Eating encompasses the ability to feed oneself independently. This includes the physical act of bringing food to the mouth, using utensils, and swallowing safely.
  4. Transferring: Transferring refers to the ability to move from one position to another, such as from a bed to a chair or from sitting to standing. It also includes the ability to get in and out of vehicles.
  5. Continence: Continence refers to the ability to control bowel and bladder function. This includes being able to use the toilet in a timely manner and managing personal hygiene afterward.
  6. Ambulation: Ambulation involves the ability to walk independently or with the use of assistive devices. It also includes tasks related to mobility, such as navigating stairs and maintaining balance.

These Six Basic ADLs provide a framework for assessing an individual's ability to perform essential self-care tasks. It is important to note that the level of independence in these activities can vary depending on an individual's physical and cognitive abilities.

Understanding and evaluating an individual's ability to perform ADLs is crucial in determining their level of independence and the need for assistance or support. Healthcare professionals often use assessments and tools to evaluate an individual's ADL performance.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, commonly referred to as IADLs, are a set of tasks that are essential for independent living and functioning within society. While Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) encompass basic self-care tasks, IADLs involve more complex activities that are necessary for maintaining a household, managing finances, and engaging in the community.

What are IADLs?

IADLs are a collection of skills that enable individuals to live independently and maintain a certain level of functionality. These activities require higher cognitive and organizational abilities compared to the basic ADLs. IADLs are often associated with a person's ability to manage their daily affairs and adapt to the demands of everyday life.

Examples of IADLs include:

  1. Managing Finances and Shopping: This involves tasks such as budgeting, paying bills, managing bank accounts, and grocery shopping. It requires the ability to handle money, make financial decisions, and navigate shopping environments effectively.
  2. Meal Preparation and Cooking: This encompasses activities related to planning, preparing, and cooking meals. It includes tasks such as grocery shopping for ingredients, following recipes, using kitchen appliances safely, and ensuring proper nutrition.
  3. Housekeeping and Maintenance: This involves maintaining a clean and organized living environment. It includes tasks such as cleaning, doing laundry, managing household repairs, and taking care of home maintenance.
  4. Transportation and Mobility: This refers to the ability to arrange and use transportation to meet personal needs. It includes tasks such as driving, using public transportation, or arranging rides to appointments, social events, or grocery stores.
  5. Medication Management: This involves the proper handling, administration, and organization of medications. It includes tasks such as reading and understanding prescription labels, managing medication schedules, and adhering to medication regimens.
  6. Communication and Technology: This encompasses activities related to using technology and communication devices effectively. It includes tasks such as using smartphones, computers, email, social media, and other digital platforms for communication, information retrieval, and entertainment.

The Importance of IADLs

IADLs play a vital role in maintaining independence, autonomy, and overall quality of life. These activities allow individuals to remain engaged in their communities, take care of their personal needs, and manage their households effectively. By performing IADLs, individuals can continue to live independently and participate in social, recreational, and vocational activities.

Assessing one's ability to perform IADLs can provide valuable insights into their level of functioning and identify areas where support or assistance may be needed.

Understanding and addressing IADLs is important for individuals of all ages, from young adults transitioning to independent living to older adults looking to maintain their autonomy. By recognizing the significance of IADLs, individuals can take steps to enhance their skills, seek appropriate support when needed, and lead fulfilling and independent lives.

Exploring the Six IADLs

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are essential tasks that enable individuals to live independently and maintain their quality of life. These activities go beyond the basic activities of daily living (ADLs) and require more complex cognitive and physical skills. Let's explore the six key IADLs:

Managing Finances and Shopping

The ability to manage finances and handle shopping tasks independently is crucial for maintaining independence. This includes tasks such as budgeting, paying bills, banking, and grocery shopping. It requires skills in financial management, decision-making, and navigation of stores or online platforms. For individuals who may need assistance with these tasks, there are resources available such as financial management apps and assistance programs.

Meal Preparation and Cooking

Meal preparation and cooking involve planning, shopping for ingredients, and preparing meals. These activities require knowledge of nutrition, cooking techniques, and safe food handling practices. For individuals with limitations, meal delivery services or meal preparation assistance can be helpful. It's important to ensure that nutritional needs are met and dietary restrictions are accommodated.

Housekeeping and Maintenance

Housekeeping and maintenance tasks involve the upkeep of living spaces, including cleaning, laundry, home repairs, and yard work. These activities require physical stamina, organization skills, and knowledge of household appliances and tools. If individuals are unable to perform these tasks independently, they may seek assistance from professional cleaners, maintenance services, or rely on support from family and friends.

Transportation and Mobility

Maintaining transportation and mobility is vital for individuals to access essential services, socialize, and engage in daily activities. This includes driving, using public transportation, or arranging transportation services. Individuals who are unable to drive or navigate public transportation may need assistance from family, friends, or community transportation programs. It's important to explore accessible transportation options to ensure independence and social engagement.

Medication Management

Proper management of medications is crucial for maintaining health and well-being. This includes activities such as organizing medications, adhering to prescribed dosages and schedules, and refilling prescriptions. For individuals who may have difficulty managing medications independently, tools such as pill organizers, medication reminders, and assistance from healthcare professionals or caregivers can be invaluable.

Communication and Technology

In today's digital age, the ability to effectively communicate and utilize technology is increasingly important. It includes tasks such as using phones, computers, email, social media, and accessing online services. Technology can enhance social connections, facilitate access to information, and provide entertainment. Individuals who require assistance in this area can seek training programs or support from family, friends, or community organizations.

By understanding and addressing the challenges associated with these six IADLs, individuals can enhance their independence and maintain a fulfilling lifestyle. It's important to evaluate individual abilities, seek appropriate support systems, and explore adaptive strategies to overcome any barriers that may hinder independence.

Assessing Independence with IADLs

Significance of Independence

Independence plays a vital role in a person's overall well-being and quality of life. The ability to perform Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) is an important aspect of maintaining independence, particularly for individuals who may require assistance with certain tasks. IADLs are more complex activities that contribute to a person's ability to live independently within their community and manage their daily lives effectively.

By assessing one's ability to perform IADLs, healthcare professionals and caregivers can gain valuable insights into an individual's level of independence and identify areas where additional support may be needed. This assessment can help inform care plans and interventions, allowing for personalized assistance that promotes autonomy and enhances the individual's overall well-being.

Assessments and Resources for IADLs

Several assessments and resources are available to evaluate an individual's ability to perform IADLs. These tools can help identify specific areas where support may be required and guide the development of appropriate interventions. Here are some commonly used assessments:

  1. Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) Scale: This assessment evaluates an individual's ability to perform various IADLs, including managing finances, shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, and transportation. It provides a comprehensive overview of an individual's independence and can be used by healthcare professionals, caregivers, and individuals themselves to identify areas of concern.
  2. Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living: While primarily focused on the basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), the Katz Index also includes a section on IADLs. It assesses an individual's ability to perform tasks such as using the telephone, managing medications, and handling finances. The Katz Index provides a simple and practical assessment of an individual's functional status.
  3. Home Safety Assessment: Conducting a home safety assessment can help identify potential hazards and challenges that may impact an individual's ability to perform IADLs safely. This assessment includes evaluating the accessibility of the home, identifying fall risks, and ensuring proper lighting and assistive devices are in place. It is especially useful for individuals with mobility or sensory impairments.

In addition to assessments, various resources and support services are available to assist individuals with IADLs. These may include community programs, home health services, and assistive devices tailored to specific tasks. It's crucial to explore these resources and work with healthcare professionals to find the most suitable options for promoting independence.

By recognizing the significance of independence and utilizing assessments and resources, individuals can enhance their ability to perform IADLs and maintain a sense of autonomy and dignity in their daily lives.

The Role of Caregivers in Supporting Individuals with ADLs and IADLs

Caregivers play a crucial role in supporting individuals with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). Caregiving can involve a range of tasks, from providing assistance with basic self-care needs to managing complex medical needs.

Providing Assistance with ADLs

For individuals who require assistance with ADLs, caregivers may provide support with tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting. This involves ensuring that the individual's physical needs are met while also respecting their privacy and dignity.

Caregivers may also assist with mobility-related tasks such as transferring from bed to chair or navigating stairs safely. It's important for caregivers to be aware of any potential safety risks and take precautions to prevent falls or injuries.

Assisting with IADLs

In addition to basic self-care needs, caregivers may also provide support with IADLs. This can include assisting with tasks such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, transportation, and medication management.

Caregivers can help ensure that individuals have access to nutritious meals and appropriate medication management. They can also provide transportation services or arrange for accessible transportation options to allow individuals to remain engaged in their communities.

Providing Emotional Support

In addition to practical assistance, caregivers also play an important role in providing emotional support. This involves building trusting relationships with the individuals they care for and offering companionship and social engagement.

Caregivers can help reduce feelings of isolation by encouraging participation in social activities or connecting individuals with community resources. They can also offer emotional support during times of stress or illness.

Challenges Faced by Caregivers

Providing care for individuals who require assistance with ADLs and IADLs can be challenging. Caregivers may experience physical exhaustion, emotional burnout, or financial strain.

It's important for caregivers to take care of their own physical and emotional needs while also providing care for others. This may involve seeking support from other family members or community resources, setting realistic expectations, and practicing self-care strategies.


Caregivers play a vital role in supporting individuals with ADLs and IADLs. By providing practical assistance, emotional support, and social engagement, caregivers can help individuals maintain their independence and quality of life. It's important to recognize the challenges faced by caregivers and provide appropriate support to ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality care.


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