ADLs and IADLs: Just the FAQs

The world of medicine is filled with acronyms: acronyms for diseases, like COPD; formedications, such as NSAIDs; and for levels of care, such as ICU. However,there are two acronyms that guide the type of care your loved one will get (andwho will pay for it): ADL and IADL.


What are ADLs?

ADL is an acronym for Activities of Daily Living. ADLs refer to a person’s ability to take care of themselves, and include the following six activities:

1. Grooming includes brushing teeth, shaving, and combing one’s hair. Typically, this is the first ADL to be lost in a senior.

2. Bathing includes washing one’s face, as well as bathing and showering independently.

3. Mobility involves the ability to get from one place to another, though not necessarily unaided. Someone who requires a wheelchair is considered mobile if they are able to transfer themselves in and out of their wheelchair. Mobility also includes the ability to get in to and out of a chair and a bed.

4. Toileting includes the ability to reach the toilet in time, to clean oneself, and to get up from the toilet.

5. Dressing does not only include dressing and undressing, but also the ability to choose appropriate clothing.

6. Eating involves the ability to feed oneself. Typically, this is the last ADL to be lost in a senior.

What are IADLs?

IADL is an acronym for Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. While IDL’s are the most basic forms of self-care, IADLs are more sophisticated tasks that require higher level cognitive skills, such as organization. As with the ADL of mobility, IADLs do not necessarily need to be accomplished independently. For example, housecleaning and meal preparation can be delegated. The question to be answered with IADLs is whether the person is able to ensure that these tasks are done properly. IADLs include:

1. Communication refers to the ability to use the telephone and any other necessary mode of communication, such as mail and, possibly, email.

2. Meal preparation includes shopping for and preparing proper meals.

3. Medication management refers to the ability to take all medications as directed, and to refill them as necessary.

4. Money management includes making sure bills are paid, and, more generally, making responsible financial decisions. A person who cannot handle the IADL of money management is more likely to be taken advantage of financially.

5. Home maintenance includes doing laundry, keeping living areas clean, and arranging for necessary repairs.

6. Transportation refers to the ability to use necessary means of transportation outside the home, including driving oneself. It is distinct from mobility, which is an ADL, in that transportation refers to moving around outside the home, while mobility refers to moving around inside the home.

Those who have difficulty with ADLs or IADLs may be eligible for assistance through private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. The eligibility guidelines are complicated, and involve a combination of factors, including age, whether the person is recovering from a procedure, and whether they are expected to regain the ability to perform ADLs or IADLs.

At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, we specialize in all aspects of senior and rehabilitative care. We take a restorative approach, and believe in maximizing function and mobility in a positive and upbeat atmosphere.

Read our reviews on,, and to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.

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