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Activities of Daily Living for Seniors – Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge

What is an ADL?

An ADL, Activity of Daily Living, is a phrase that is predominantly used in health care. It is applied to essential tasks and activities one must take care of on a daily basis.

These tasks are routine for people in peak physical health, but may be more burdensome for seniors with health issues.

Some examples of activities of daily living, are:

  • Functional mobility – the ability to get out of bed in the morning and get to the bathroom, and navigate around the house
  • Toileting
  • Personal hygiene
    • Bathing or showering
    • Oral care
    • Skin care
    • Grooming
    • Hair care
  • Dressing – choosing suitable attire and the ability to put on clothes, with the ability to operate zippers and buttons
  • Nourishment – independent eating

You can think of an ADL as an activity that is typically included in the process of getting ready for a regular day.

With age, ADLs may begin to become more challenging and time-consuming, and in some cases impossible.

Caregivers from a professional home care agency, like Retire-At-Home, can assist your loved one with any help they need carrying out typical ADLs.

On top of straightforward activities like ADLs, there is also another level of tasks called IADLs.

What is an IADL?

IADL stands for Instrumental Activities for Daily Living. An IADL is much like an ADL, except it is generally a bit more complex in nature.

IADLs are often not essential for survival, but are required for independent living. These tasks frequently require higher levels of functioning like organizational skills, problem solving and judgement, as well as a certain degree of physical strength and mobility.

Instrumental activities for daily living, might include:

  • Housekeeping
    • Tidying and cleaning
    • Laundry
    • Dishes
    • Vacuuming
    • Sweeping and mopping
  • Groceries
    • making appropriate grocery lists with nutrient rich foods
    • grocery shopping
    • preparing and cooking meals safely
  • Financial management
    • Banking
    • Bill payments
    • Balancing income vs. expenses
  • Telephone and computer usage
    • For communication and other tasks
  • Medication management
    • Taking medications on time and as directed
    • If multiple medications are being taken, ensuring that prescriptions are not adversely affecting one another
  • Getting around the neighborhood
    • On foot, driving, or public transit

These tasks may require higher cognitive function and physical demands. Seniors with health problems that cause reduced mobility and/or cognitive impairment may have trouble completing IADLs.

Assistance is available for IADLs as well, as caregivers can assist with these tasks and help construct routines that make independent living more manageable.

Assessing ADL functionality in Seniors

One method for doing a quick assessment of an older adult’s abilities to manage ADLs for independent living is the Katz Index of Independence in Activities for Independent Living.

The Katz Index looks at 6 ADL factors that can provide a good measure of senior independence.

The 6 factors assessed are:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Continence
  • Transferring
  • Feeding

Each category gets a score of either 1 or 0. A score of 1 is given for no supervision or assistance needed, and a score of 0 is applied if help is required.


1 point – Able to bath or shower independently

0 points – Needs help bathing and/or getting in and out of the tub or shower


1 point – Able to select clothes, get them out of the closet and drawers, and put them on independently

0 points – Needs assistance finding proper attire and putting it on


1 point – Can get on and off the toilet with no need of assistance

0 points – Needs assistance using the toilet and/or cleaning, uses a bedpan, chamber pot, or commode


1 point – complete control over bowel and bladder

0 points – partially or totally incontinent


1 point – can get up from bed or chair without assistance (help of mechanical devices is acceptable)

0 points – needs assistance getting in and out of a bed or chair


1 point – can eat independently (this does not include food prep or cooking)

0 points – needs help delivering food to mouth

A score of 6 indicates a good level of independence. Anything less than a 5 and you may want to consider getting some extra home care assistance for your loved one.

Contact us today for a Free Home Care Assessment to discuss how our services in the North Shore – North Vancouver,and West Vancouver can help provide support to you or someone you care about.