What are the Differences between an ADL and an IADL in Senior Living?

Seniors-eating-with-caregiverThe senior care industry is loaded with acronyms. From DON (Director of Nursing) to CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), the terminology can make it more difficult to understand your options for care for an aging loved one.

If you and your siblings will be talking with senior living providers or in-home care agencies during your holiday visit with your senior loved ones this year, two terms to know and understand are ones that are often confused. An ADL refers to the activities of daily living while an IADL is short hand for the instrumental activities of daily living. Both are used to determine how much – or how little – assistance your aging loved one might require. 

Common Activities of Daily Living

ADLs are those tasks each of us must be able to safely perform to remain independent. They include:

  1. Toileting: Being able to use the toilet independently or to manage continence care independently.
  2. Personal Care: These activities refer to a person’s ability to tend to their personal hygiene and grooming needs.
  3. Dressing:  Being able to dress and undress each day is also a basic ADL.
  4. Transferring: This is a person’s ability to safely move from one location to another. It might be from a wheelchair to the toilet or from the sofa to a wheelchair.
  5. Eating: A senior’s ability to eat independently with or without assistive devices is also an ADL.

The majority of residents of an assisted living community need help with at least one ADL. Most residents need assistance with bathing and dressing.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living for Older Adults

By contrast, instrumental activities of daily living are skills seniors need to be able to maintain their home and life. Some of the more common examples are:

  • Drive themselves to and from appointments, shopping and more or to be able to arrange for their own transportation.
  • Safely manage their medications including ordering refills when needed.
  • Conduct or oversee menu planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation.
  • Pay bills, monitor financial accounts and manage household finances.
  • Keep up with housekeeping and home repairs or to schedule help with those tasks.

If you need help determining what type of senior care your aging loved one might need, we have an online senior care assessment you can complete. It will assist you in finding the right level of support for yourself, a senior loved one or a patient you provide care for.