IADLS vs ADLS: Why are they Important for Aging

When one is first introduced to the world of elder care, it can be overwhelming to understand the many terms and concepts associated with it. It can feel like learning an entirely new language altogether. With terms like Medicare vs. Medicaid, assisted living vs. independent living, and IADLS vs ADLS, it’s understandable why someone might feel lost and confused.

As someone who has served in senior services, I relate to this sentiment all too well. I distinctly remember learning these terms when I first started working in the field, and still do when interacting with seniors, caregivers, and family members seeking services. or nursing facility, the importance of understanding these terms is clear.

As individuals age, they may encounter many unfamiliar acronyms related to health care and long-term care facilities. It can be overwhelming and surprising, especially when you are making important decisions about your or a loved one’s care. Acronyms are commonly used in the medical field to describe different conditions, organizations, and types of care, but definitions for these terms can be challenging to find.

Two acronyms that often come up when discussing senior care are IADL and ADL. While the two acronyms may seem similar, it is important to understand the differences between them when making long-term care decisions. Categorizing activities of daily living and evaluating which tasks are more challenging than others can help determine the most beneficial type of care over time.

ADLs: Activities of Daily Living

ADLs, or performing activities of daily living, are essential for a person to live independently. These are the most fundamental tasks that a person performs in his daily life, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding himself. These tasks must be performed safely, either independently or with the help of assistive devices such as a walker. Activities of daily living may seem minor and simple, but not being able to perform them can significantly affect someone’s quality of life.

When determining what type of care is needed for an older person, it is necessary to first assess their ability to perform these basic tasks. If completing an ADL is challenging, or other fundamental daily tasks are challenging, it may be necessary to consider a skilled nursing facility or comprehensive home health care assistance. Although aging can slow the ability to complete tasks, the inability to perform ADLs can make independent living significantly more challenging.

7 Examples of ADLs


One of the fundamental activities of daily living is walking, which can include walking around the house, down the street, or in public places such as the grocery store. However, some conditions, such as severe joint pain, can make walking comfortably challenging or impossible altogether. In such cases, the use of assistive devices such as upright walkers can be helpful in maintaining mobility and independence.


In addition to walking, a person must also be able to move comfortably, including getting up from a sitting or lying position, getting in and out of the shower, and repositioning the body as needed. Some medical conditions or mobility problems can make these activities challenging or dangerous, even with assistive devices such as power lift chairs and shower transfer benches.


The ability to eat is vital to a person’s survival, and therefore, it is essential to ensure that you or your loved ones can feed yourself independently. Although not always necessary to cook or prepare food, being able to hold utensils, chew, and swallow are essential activities of daily living. Eating difficulties can arise from a number of factors, including dental problems, neurological disorders, or physical limitations.

Getting Dressed

The ability to dress, which includes choosing and putting on clothes, as well as removing them, requires greater physical flexibility and range of motion until we reach old age. It is an important aspect of daily living that can become increasingly challenging as we age.

Fortunately, there are a variety of clothing options for seniors that can ease the task of getting ready and make it more manageable. However, in cases where the dressing is still difficult or poses a safety risk, additional assistance or care may be required.


Toileting is an important aspect of daily life that involves several essential steps, such as accessing a toilet, using it properly, and cleaning oneself afterward. In situations where the physical act of sitting or standing on the toilet becomes challenging, adjusting the height of the toilet can be helpful.

If toileting problems are ongoing and accidents are frequent, it may be necessary to consider hiring in-home care or exploring assisted living options. By doing so, individuals can obtain appropriate assistance to manage their toileting needs and maintain their independence and dignity.


Maintaining personal hygiene, including bathing or showering, is a fundamental aspect of living a healthy and fulfilling life. In addition to being able to get in and out of the shower or bathtub, the ability to bathe yourself is equally important. If there are concerns about the safety of bathing, it may be beneficial to install shower handles or use a shower stool to reduce the risk of slips and falls.

Personal Hygiene

The ability to perform everyday grooming activities such as brushing teeth, flossing and hair care is important for maintaining good health and personal hygiene. These actions are often taken for granted, but they play an important role in promoting a positive self-image and overall well-being.

If an older person is having difficulty performing these tasks, it may be a sign of deteriorating physical or cognitive functioning. In such cases, it is important to consider ongoing care options to ensure that the individual’s grooming needs are met. This may include seeking help from family members, hiring a caregiver, or exploring assisted living options.

IADLs: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

After assessing a person’s ability to perform ADLs comfortably, the next step is to assess their proficiency in managing IADLs. The instrumental activities of daily living are more complex tasks that are an integral part of day-to-day life. While not as important as basic ADLs such as walking or eating, they still have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.

It is usually easier to get help with IADLs than to take care of ADLs that cannot be completed independently. However, it is still important to consider a person’s ability to manage these tasks on their own. This evaluation can help determine the type of care needed now and in the future. By understanding a person’s abilities and limitations, appropriate care plans can be made to maintain their independence and enable them to lead fulfilling life.

7 Examples of IADLs

Managing Finances

Developing the ability to handle personal finances is an important component of achieving independence. This not only involves paying bills promptly and sticking to a budget but also affects various aspects of our daily existence. If you or someone close to you is struggling with overdue bills due to forgetfulness or careless spending, it may be beneficial to offer assistance in managing their finances or consider hiring a professional to take on the responsibility. .


As a person ages, they may experience a decline in their ability to drive, which may be due to factors such as injuries, disabilities, weakened reflexes, or cognitive impairment. In such cases, it may be beneficial to research the various public transportation options in the area.

Senior transportation service options are available for seniors who may have concerns navigating public transit. These services often offer subscriptions for frequent rides, and some medical plans may even cover a portion of the cost in situations where transportation is medically necessary.

Grocery Shopping

In addition to alleviating driving and transportation concerns for senior citizens, it is also important to ensure they can complete tasks outside the home, such as grocery shopping. These activities require a variety of skills, such as mobility and memory, which make daily living more manageable.

If you or a loved one is struggling with shopping or other responsibilities outside the home, services such as grocery delivery can be helpful in reducing the amount of effort required to maintain a home. Plus, check out our comprehensive list of senior discounts to maximize the benefits of these services.


Eating is recognized as an activity of daily life, whereas food preparation is seen as a more complex task that requires a range of skills. Food preparation includes tasks such as gathering ingredients, cutting vegetables, handling meat safely, and cooking or baking food.

When food preparation becomes challenging or poses a safety risk, it may be considered to look for alternative food options that do not require preparation or using food delivery services. that deliver prepackaged meals to your doorstep.

Making Phone Calls

Effective communication through technology is an important aspect of aging in. While phone calls are the most commonly used means of staying connected, there are many other technologies such as email, social media, and messaging apps that can facilitate communication. This ability to stay connected is not only important for mental well-being but can also prove life-saving in emergencies that require the intervention of emergency services or loved ones.

If you or someone close to you finds making phone calls challenging, it may be worthwhile to consider investing in a medical alert system that is easy to operate and geared towards seniors.

Home Maintenance

Keeping up with home maintenance can be a daunting task for anyone, let alone seniors who may experience slow movements and mobility issues. This can include a variety of tasks, such as cleaning, gardening, or making repairs or upgrades around the home.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with routine household chores or home maintenance tasks, it may be worth considering hiring a regular housekeeper or another professional who can help take care of these tasks. And can make sure the house stays in good condition.

Managing Medications

As we get older, medications often become a necessary part of our daily routine to maintain our health and quality of life. However, managing multiple drugs can be a difficult task, requiring a high degree of organization and attention to detail. This may include keeping track of refills, knowing when to take each drug, and managing potential side effects.

For seniors who struggle with medication management, there are tools available, such as pill organizers, that can help keep medications organized and on schedule. In addition, in-home care services can also provide valuable assistance in ensuring that seniors stay up-to-date with their medication schedules and avoid any potential health risks.

How ADLs and IADLs are Used in Personal Care

When exploring personal care options for seniors, it is important to consider their ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Assisted Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) to determine the level of care needed. If a senior is experiencing difficulties primarily with IADLs, such as managing finances or transportation, the level of care needed may not be as extensive as it would be for someone struggling with ADLs, such as: whether bathing, getting dressed, or using the toilet.

However, if a senior is experiencing difficulties with basic tasks such as eating or walking, more frequent home care or placement in an assisted living facility may be necessary to ensure their safety and well-being. It is important to carefully assess the individual’s needs in order to determine the appropriate level of care and support needed.


As individuals age, changes in physical abilities and loss of independence can significantly affect their quality of life. These changes can happen gradually and often go unnoticed, which is why it’s important to monitor your or your loved one’s ability to perform daily tasks and household activities. If you notice a sudden change in comfort or difficulty completing these tasks, it is essential to speak with a doctor about managing the condition.

Although it can be difficult to lose these abilities, there are many products and services available that can make daily tasks more manageable. By being vigilant and proactive, you can identify convenient ways to manage any condition and maintain a healthy quality of life for years to come. It’s important to remember that there are resources and supports available to help seniors remain independent and active, even as their abilities change over time.

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