Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

What are ADLs?

Health professionals routinely refer to the ability or inability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) as a measurement of the functional status of a person. This measurement is useful for assessing the elderly and those with chronic diseases in order to evaluate what type of health care services an individual may need. (Rose, 2002)

The National Center for Health Statistics refers to ADLs as the following:

Activities of daily living are activities related to personal care and include bathing or showering, dressing, getting in or out of bed or a chair, using the toilet, and eating.

Basic ADLs  consist of these self-care tasks:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing and undressing
  • Eating
  • Transferring from bed to chair, and back
  • Voluntarily controlling urinary and fecal discharge
  • Using the toilet
  • Walking (not bedridden)

Instrumental ADLs (IADLs)  are not necessary for fundamental functioning, but enable the individual to live independently within a community:

  • Light housework
  • Preparing meals
  • Taking medications
  • Shopping for groceries or clothes
  • Using the telephone
  • Managing money

Occupational therapists also evaluate IADLs when completing patient assessments. The following are 10 areas of IADLs that are generally optional in nature, and can be delegated to others:

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

Exercise improves your ability to do the following ADLs (Activities of Daily Living):

Table 1.1

Type of Training                                                                          Activities

Cardiovascular Training Walking the dog, shopping, housecleaning, yard work, climbing stairs
Balance & Mobility Stepping over things, getting out of the tub, recovering from unexpected loss of balance, going down stairs
Lower Body

Strength Exercises

Getting up off the floor, getting out of the bathtub, lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs
Upper Body Strength Exercises Lifting a child, putting objects on the top shelf, pushing a shopping cart, opening heavy doors, washing windows
Upper Body ROM & Flexibility Exercises Washing hair, turning head to change lanes in traffic, putting a belt on or zipping a dress, reaching items on the top shelf, putting on your seat belt
Lower Body ROM  & Flexibility Exercises Putting on shoes and socks, clipping toenails, rising from a seated position, picking something up from the floor