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Understanding Activities of Daily Living (ADL's)


ADL's, or activities of daily living are used by healthcare professionals to assess functional abilities and evaluate long term care needs. Basic functions and activities are necessary for seniors to live independently.


According to AgingCare, "The use of indexes to measure daily functioning is important in the overall assessment of a senior's well-being because appropriate levels of assistance with ADL's can improve an elder's independence, health outcomes and quality of life."


An official assessment of the ability to complete the six (6) activities of daily living (ADL's) contributes to the determination of a senior's eligibility for both supportive services and financial assistance such as Medicaid long-term care, VA benefits, and the payment of long-term care insurance claims.


What are the six (6) Activities of Daily Living (ADL's)?


  1. Eating - Is the individual able to move food and drink successfully from the table to their mouth?

  2. Bathing and Personal Hygiene - Is the individual able to get in and out of the shower or bath without assistance? Are they able to wash their face, body, and hair? Are they able to groom themselves, maintain oral hygiene and care for their nails?

  3. Dressing - Is the individual able to choose appropriate clothing? Are they able to put on and take off these items, including fastening and unfastening them properly?

  4. Continence - Can the individual maintain control over their bladder and bowel function?

  5. Toileting - Is the individual able to transfer on and off the toilet, clean themselves, and re-secure their clothing?

  6. Walking and Transferring - Is the individual able to walk independently? Are they able to move to and from a chair and bed without the assistance of another person? Note that the use of assistive devices or mobility aids such as canes or walkers is an acceptable source of support in walking and transferring independently.

The amount of assistance a senior requires to complete each of these ADL's is used to determine the level of care they require to create a personalized plan for support, called a care plan.

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