ADLs and IADLs

What is the difference between ADLs and IADLs?

ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) are basic self-care tasks. The six basic ADLs are eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, mobility, and grooming. Eating includes feeding oneself and getting all the vitamins and nutrients needed to stay healthy. Bathing includes cleaning one’s body and the ability to get in and out of the tub or shower safely. Dressing oneself means not only physically putting on clothes, but also choosing the appropriate attire for the weather. Toileting is both using the toilet independently and also recognizing the urge to use the restroom. Mobility envelops walking, transferring (moving from the bed to a wheelchair), and climbing up or down stairs, if necessary. Grooming is brushing teeth, combing hair, and maintaining personal hygiene.

IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) are slightly more complex skills. They include managing finances, handling transportation, shopping, preparing meals, using the telephone or other communication devices, managing medications, doing laundry, housework, and basic home maintenance. Difficulty managing these tasks are common in patients with early stages of dementia.

What is the purpose of ADLs?

Together, these skills represent what someone needs to manage on their own to successfully live independently. ADLs and IADLs are assessed by health care professionals like doctors, rehabilitation specialists, and geriatric social workers to determine a person’s functional ability. Many financial assistance programs for older adults (such as Medicaid and Veteran’s Benefits) use the inability to perform a specific number of tasks as eligibility criteria. For example, Medicaid requires that a person need assistance with two or more ADLs in order to qualify.

Assessing these skills can also determine what kind of care and assistance an older adult may need. If you are considering caring for a loved one at home, this checklist can give you an idea of how much care they might need. If they need heavier care, a better option may be an Assisted Living Community (AL) or a Residential Care Facility (RCF).


For more information on assisted living options in the Puget Sound area, Spokane/Coeur d’Alene, or Portland/Vancouver, contact CHOICE Advisory Services today! 1-800-361-0138 or

If you are looking for options in/near Portland, Oregon, check out this article.