Completing daily tasks such as getting out of bed, showering, and dressing requires minimal effort or thought when we are young. However, once the average person reaches age 65, performing the same activities can be anything but routine because of age-related functional limitations. According to a 2018 study from the CDC, roughly 7% of all Americans aged 65+ require at least some assistance to perform activities that they previously could do on their own. As a result, millions of independent seniors each year rely on informal caregivers or professional caregivers to assist them with what are commonly referred to as “activities of daily living,” or simply “ADLs.”

What Are Activities of Daily Living?

As the name suggests, activities of daily living (ADLs) are those necessary for maintaining an independent lifestyle with a high quality of life. While most young people can perform ADLs on their own, older adults and those with disabilities often have a difficult time completing one or more ADLs without outside support. There are two main types of ADLs: basic and instrumental.

What Are the 6 Basic ADLs?

The six basic ADLs are focused more on one’s physical needs and include:

Ambulation (Functional Mobility)

The ability to move about freely and safely.


The ability to feed oneself.


The ability to assemble an outfit and put on clothes properly.

Personal Hygiene

The ability to manage all aspects of personal care, such as bathing, grooming, and brushing one’s teeth.


The ability to control one’s bladder and bowel movements.


The ability to get to and from the bathroom, use the bathroom properly, and clean oneself properly.

What Are Instrumental ADLs?

While basic ADLs focus more on physical tasks, instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) describe those that require higher-order, complex thinking. Depending on the source, eldercare experts list between seven to twelve IADLs.

For instance, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) recognizes these 12 IADLs:

  • Care of others
  • Care of pets
  • Child rearing
  • Communication management
  • Community mobility
  • Financial management
  • Health management and maintenance
  • Home establishment and maintenance
  • Meal preparation and cleanup
  • Religious observations
  • Safety procedures and emergency responses
  • Shopping

How Can You Assess Your Loved One’s ADL Needs?

When you’re suddenly thrust into the role of caring for aging-in-place loved ones, some will require more assistance with day-to-day activities than others. Thankfully, assessing their daily care needs is possible by using free online resources such as the Lawton-Brody IADL Scale and Katz Index of Independence in ADLs.

The Lawton-Brody IADL Scale is ideal for determining if an independent senior has higher or lower levels of functioning when performing IADLs. Conversely, the Katz Index of Independence in ADLs is better suited for assessing one’s ability to independently complete ADLs.

Why Are ADLs and IADLs So Important?

Not only is determining how much help your loved one needs around the home important for their quality of life, but it’s also essential for assessing how much financial support they are eligible to receive from government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid.

For example, Medicare does not typically cover long-term care services. On the other hand, some older adults may still qualify for certain Medicare benefits once they can no longer complete a specified number of ADLs on their own. If your loved one is a Medicaid recipient, they may also be eligible to receive program benefits specific to home care. You can check your state’s eligibility requirements here.

If your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy, it may include coverage for home care services once certain eligibility requirements are met, including their ADL score.

Does Your Loved One Need Help with ADLs?

Senior1Care is your trusted partner in providing quality, compassionate home care services to seniors living in Fishers, Brownsburg, Avon, Carmel, and the greater Indianapolis area. Our experienced caregivers are trained to deliver professional, reliable care in the same respectful and friendly manner that they would treat their own family members. At Senior1Care, we understand that having a caregiver in your loved one’s home is a decision that requires trust. Our goal is to build relationships with clients by listening to their needs and providing the highest level of quality care possible. We are committed to helping your loved ones maintain their well-being, independence, and comfort. To learn more about our flexible caregiving options or schedule a FREE assessment for a senior in the greater Indianapolis, IN, area, visit us by clicking here now.