The holidays are a time of year when many families come together. For some, it may be the first reunion since the previous year’s festivities. Adult children, who are concerned about a senior loved one’s health, often use this visit to talk about care options for their aging family member. One of the hurdles is being able to understand all of the terminology that is so prevalent in senior care.

Two of the important industry terms to know are IADL and ADL. IADL stands for instrumental activities of daily living, and ADL means activities of daily living. Determining how each of them relates to your older loved one is a necessary step in figuring out what type of care and support they need.

What is an ADL?

The tasks each of us need to be able to perform safely and independently each day are referred to as ADLs. They include:

  • Personal Care: This ADL is used to describe how well a person can care for their own hygiene and grooming needs.
  • Dressing: A person’s ability to dress and undress is another ADL.
  • Toileting: This ADL refers to whether or not a person can use the toilet on their own or if they manage their own incontinence care.
  • Eating: An ability to eat independently or with the use of assistive devices is another ADL.

According to the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), 38% of assisted living residents need help with three ADLs. 72% need help with bathing and 52% with dressing.

The Difference between an ADL and an IADL

IADLs are those tasks and chores older adults need to be able to perform to successfully manage their life and home. Examples include:

  • Managing medications including ordering refills
  • Planning and preparing meals or arranging for help
  • Driving independently or arranging for transportation
  • Managing personal finances including paying bills on time
  • Performing housekeeping and maintenance tasks or arranging for those activities to be done

Many senior living providers use these activities as a measure for evaluating what types of assistance an older adult will require. That assessment is typically used to determine how much care will be needed and how much it will cost to provide it.