This post is part of our series of Senior Care Questions and Answers. We will help explain some of the senior care industry terminology that you might commonly hear. When it comes to getting help at home (or a senior care facility), you’ll often hear the terms ADLs and IADLs. If you read your long-term care insurance policy you might also see these terms used in describing what it takes to qualify for a claim. We will help demystify and explain these senior care terms here. Please “pay it forward” and share this article, if you know someone this could help.

What are ADLs?

ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) are common activities necessary for a person to care for themselves…i.e. things we must do in basic day-to-day living. Typically ADLs are:

Showering/bathing (washing one’s body) and grooming (personal hygiene)

Bowel and bladder management (i.e. continence) and toileting

Eating and feeding one’s self


Transferring/mobility (functional ability to get around)

Many long-term care policies are triggered by the inability to perform a certain number of these ADLs. A doctor or health practitioner may need to certify that you are unable to perform a certain number of ADLs because of physical or cognitive impairment. The specifics are outlined in your long-term care policy (i.e. how many ADLs and more detailed requirements). Some policies may require that you need hands-on assistance rather than what is called “stand by” assistance. In other words, you need direct help with someone bathing you rather than just someone to be present for safety. These small differences, as well as having help from someone who understands these ins and outs can make a big difference in qualifying for a claim. When you work with a company like EasyLiving who understands these issues, you get help navigating these complexities.

IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) are instrumental activities to living independently in the community, beyond the basic functioning of ADLs. These include things such as shopping, managing money, taking medications, using the telephone/other forms of communication, using transportation, meal preparation and housework.

Clearly, while ADLs are essential to basic functioning, IADLs impact a person’s continued ability to manage at home independently. The IADLs are often the first things which become difficult and may trigger the need for caregivers to assist. Many family caregivers first begin helping aging parents with managing finances or set up help with medication management, as these complex tasks become difficult. Many of the people who contact EasyLiving are first looking for help in these areas, such as senior transportation, help with errands and meal preparation or medication management. You can read more about some of these services from EasyLiving’s Home Caregivers.

There are a number of scales for measuring someone’s capacity to handle ADLs and IADLs and such an assessment is typically part of any geriatric assessment. When we meet with clients to provide our free home healthcare assessment and needs analysis, we review the status of ADL and IADL needs and design a care plan accordingly. At this point, we also offer assistance as needed with your long-term care claim to help you navigate the process and ensure the long-term care provider receives the information they need to make the claim go smoothly.

If you have further questions about ADLs, IADLs or other senior care terms, we welcome your comments or calls. Our Senior Care Consultant, Sue Talbott, has extensive expertise in senior care and spends time with each client/family who contacts us for help to ensure they understand their options. You can reach us at 727-447-5845 to schedule a free needs analysis or just get answers to your pressing senior care questions.

You might also be interested in our Senior Care Warning Signs Evaluation Checklist. This helps you to identify potential areas of concern when you visit your aging parents.