Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Curated by vivien

December 14, 2022

What does ADL mean?

Elderly person

According to the National Cancer Institute, ADL stands for “Activities of Daily Living”, or basic self-care tasks, is a concept of how independent an elderly person is. These activities include eating, dressing, grooming and toileting which people have learned during young age and can do daily without any assistance.

This phrase is frequently used by professionals who provide elderly care services because it enables them to determine which seniors require greater assistance in particular areas. For the majority, these daily activities may appear to be easy and routine. However, as people’s ages increasing, some elderly people might not be able to perform these basic ADLs like they once could and need assistive care.

What are the six activities of daily living?


This relates to one person’s independence in bathing or showering themselves, as well as physically entering and exiting the shower. Despite being a simple and basic task, it can be rather exhausting and dangerous for the elderly to do it on themselves.

In general, as people age, they become more susceptible to the cold and may lose their balance or range of motion. Helping with the washing can prevent an elderly from falling and other related accidents.


Toileting involves being able to use a toilet properly, get to and from it, and clean oneself up afterwards. This also includes putting on protective undergarments such as diapers or surgically appliances without assistance if necessary. You might need to use adult diapers as you age if you start to lose control over your bowel and bladder functions.

Since functional incapacity is related to falling and seniors are typically more prone to falls, unaccompanied toileting may cause mild or serious injuries for the elderly.


Dressing refers to one’s ability to make a choice of clothes to be put on and manage one’s self appearance. If necessary, dressing also includes fastening and unfastening any prosthetic limbs, braces and other medical and surgical appliances.

As growing older and older, some elderly may experience health issues like arthritis, a stroke, broken bones, or even cognitive problems like dementia and may lose the ability to dress themselves. In these cases, they may need help to get dressed.


Feeding means one can feed himself or herself after the food has been prepared. Elderly persons who are experiencing cognitive or physical deterioration may eventually lose the ability to completely feed themselves. This might be caused by decline in motor or swallowing abilities. Additionally, they may also face dietary and nutritional difficulties such as forgetting to eat or losing their appetite.


Functional mobility refers to one’s ability to sit, stand, walk and move from one place to another on a level surfaces all by oneself. Going up and down the stairs, sitting and standing up from the couch or other furniture and using the toilet are other mobility-related activities.


Transferring, which is sometimes confused with functional mobility because of its similarity, emphasizes all aspects of being able to transfer from a bed to an upright chair or wheelchair or the other way round.




Technology and equipment that can support ADL

Since most of the daily living activities depend on being physically capable, there are several assistive equipment that can help you to carry out these activities much easier. Not only does this simplify the process of performing ADLs, but also cuts down on the time required to do so.

Grab bars and bed rails can be prepared for your elderly loved one to provide extra support they need to get up from a seated position, whether that’s on a toilet seat or chair. Seniors with mobility issues may find it easier and more convenient to move around with the help of walkers and wheelchairs.

Other types of senior assistive equipment include:

  • Ramps
  • Hearing aids
  • Buttoning aid hook
  • Medical alert devices
  • Chair lifts
  • Toilet seat risers
  • Shower chairs
  • Handheld shower heads
  • Washcloth mitts
  • Kitchen utensils with larger handles for more grip
  • Shoes with velcro straps

Even though these devices and technologies may seem simple, they can make a big difference to elderly people’s lives and allow them to live more independently as they age.

Difference between Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL)

There are two distinct categories that can be used to classify activities of daily living, which are activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). What is the difference between these two classifications?

ADLs are basic self-care activities that are required for basic functional living. However, compared to activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily (IADLs) entail slightly more complicated tasks that call for higher levels of cognition and planning. Cooking, cleaning, doing your own shopping, operating your own transportation and even managing your finances are some of the tasks on this lengthy list.

What is an ADL assessment?

A person who is not entirely independent in performing the various ADLs or IADLs will need support, depending on their specific needs. But how can we tell if someone needs assistance with these tasks?

One’s level of cognitive and physical functioning relating to personal care and social activities can be evaluated with an ADL assessment. An occupational therapist usually handles this process whether at an elderly care facility or in the elderly person’s home.

The following topics are frequently examined in an ADL assessment:

  • Personal care (hygiene and grooming)
  • Physical functions (feeding, dressing, toileting)
  • Functional mobility (access and transferring)
  • Community integration
  • Communication and social interaction
  • Home establishment and maintenance

In Singapore, people will fill out a Functional Assessment Report to determine whether they require assistance with ADLs using the standard framework for disability assessment.

What is the purpose of an ADL assessment?

An ADL assessment is helpful in identifying an aged person’s cognitive and physical abilities and limitations. Besides that, it also helps to define and ensure appropriate care support. Occupational therapists and elderly care service agencies can determine which areas does your elderly loved one need extra help with by assessing his or her independency of living skills.

These assessments can also determine whether an elderly person needs further care or assistance, either at home or at a long-term care facility. Early symptoms of illness or physical injury in a patient can also be detected early through this tool. The inability to ambulate may increase the risk of falls and other injuries that could have been avoided.

Where can I receive the necessary help?

After completing an ADL assessment, if your elderly family member needs further assistance, the next step is to determine where and how they can get the care support they require.

Seniors who are unable to carry on certain ADLs and IADLs can receive practical care from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Skilled caregivers and nurses will help the elderly with ADLs and IADLs to the best of their abilities, from personal and emergency care to food preparation and leisure activities.

On the other hand, there are also in-home caregivers who are designed to help seniors with mobility-related issues to perform their independent living all at the same time. You don’t have to travel to an elder care center when you can receive care and support at home, which provides greater convenience and comfort. You will receive assistance from trained care specialists who will come to your house and attend to your needs, making it easier for you to do basic ADLs. Licensed caregivers are also trained to identify potential health risks in your house and will provide you advice on the various precautions you can take to avoid any mishaps.

In-home caregivers usually undergo caregiving courses and are certified. Therefore, it is expectable that the hiring cost of a caregiver will be quite high. For families with a tight budget and could not afford to hire a caregiver, hiring a maid will be a great alternative. You can hire a maid and send her for caregivers training. Help Is Here can assist you to seek for maids who have experiences in taking care of elderly and assist in ADLs too.


Many seniors have a tendency to feel restricted by certain disabilities once they are unable to conduct ADLs on their own and start to lose their sense of independence in the process. Therefore, it’s important to find the right care option for your elderly loved one who can assist in their ADLs while making them to feel empowered and independent in their daily lives. The goal of assisted care is to provide elderly a sense of dignity and normalcy despite their physical limitations, not to take away their sense of independence.

Categories Eldercare

Every family deserves the best help and we’re here to help find you the perfect maid!

We offer full placement, direct hire and contract renewal services. See which option is right for you. Or get in touch.

Related Articles

Stroke Recovery: Getting Back On Track

A stroke can happen to anyone and at any age. Both the stroke patient and their caregiver may experience high levels of emotional, mental and physical stress during the process of stroke recovery. You might need a temporary or long-term assistance to help your loved...

Warning Signs Of A Stroke

What is a stroke? A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke) or when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off, usually by a clot (ischemic stroke). Brain cells die when the blood supply of oxygen and nutrients stops...

Early Signs Of Dementia: When To Be Concerned

A substantial deterioration in mental and physical capacities is brought on by dementia. However, the early signs of dementia can be unnoticed. It could be challenging to distinguish between normal aging and the early stages of dementia. The symptoms at the early...

Get In Touch