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Assisted Living & Rehab Sarasota

What are ADLs and IADLs?

by Frank Herold
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man reading newspaperWhen you're researching retirement communities, you may come across two common acronyms: ADL and IADL. Knowing what these stand for and understanding what they're referring to will help you choose the right community for yourself or a loved one.

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ADL stands for Activities of Daily Living, while IADL stands for Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. What's the difference? Let's take a closer look.


What Are ADLs?

Activities of Daily Living are the actions a person must take every day to care for himself or herself on a basic level. There are six ADLs:

  • Bathing: This includes body, hair, and teeth. The person can do this completely on his or her own, or may require assistance with only one area.
  • Getting Dressed: Putting the clothes on and zipping or buttoning them is key; however, it's also important to be able to independently choose clothes that are appropriate for the occasion or the weather.
  • Functional Mobility: This refers to moving from one place to another on his or her own; it includes getting in and out of a bed or chair.
  • Eating: The person is able to feed himself or herself. This does not refer to an ability to prepare food, only the ability to put it in one's mouth, chew, and swallow.
  • Continence: The person is totally in control of his or her bladder and bowels.
  • Using the Toilet: This is a consideration separate from continence. In this case, the person is able to use the toilet without assistance, including getting up and down and cleaning himself or herself.

What Are IADLs?

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living include actions that are necessary for maintaining a household and functioning in society—again, on a fairly basic level. They are essential for true independent living. IADLs include:

  • Household Chores: This could include basic cleaning and housekeeping, laundry, and doing dishes.
  • Management of Medications: The person is able to understand the prescriptions and take the correct amount of all medications on time.
  • Management of Money: The person keeps track of all accounts and pays bills on time.
  • Meal Preparation: This includes cooking as well as measuring, chopping, and other meal prep actions.
  • Shopping: The person knows what he or she needs in terms of groceries, personal care items, and household items, and can go to the store by himself or herself to make the purchases.
  • Transportation: This include moving to a new home as well as using a car or taking a bus.
  • Communication: The person can use the phone and computer.

Needing Assistance with ADLs or IADLs

Many retirement communities offer skilled nursing care, assisted living, and independent living options. While a serious injury or medical condition makes it clear that skilled nursing care is required, ADLs and IADLs will also help you determine which type of retirement community is best for you or your loved one.

If your loved one can manage all ADLs and IADLs on his or her own, an independent living community is ideal. They get to enjoy the amenities and the community while managing daily life on their own. If he or she can do the ADLs but needs or simply wants help with the IADLs, assisted living can be a wonderful opportunity to relieve the stress and hassle of cooking, driving, and dealing with household duties while maintaining some privacy and independence. If the ADLs become a struggle, your loved one may require additional assistance. A new level of care can be arranged as needed.

Sometimes the person needs help with only a few of the ADLs: for example, he or she may be able to get in and out of bed without any help, but can no longer fasten the buttons on a shirt. The best assisted living communities offer personalized care to allow the person to maintain as much independence as possible while providing assistance in a professional, compassionate manner.

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