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What Are ADLs & IADLs In Senior Care?

What Are ADLs & IADLs In Senior Care? Over 55 woman brushing her hair and smiling.

If you’ve been researching senior care in your area, then chances are you’ve run into a couple of common acronyms: ADLs and IADLs. So, what do they mean, and why are they so important? Let’s discuss!


What Are ADLs?

ADLs is short for activities of daily living. In terms of senior care, this means all of the basic actions that a person performs for themself. Think about your morning routine: when you wake up, you get out of bed, probably walk straight to the bathroom to use the toilet, then brush your teeth. From there, you walk to the kitchen, prepare yourself breakfast, sit down, and eat. Every part of this routine is a basic activity of daily living. Here are the most common ADLs:

  • Eating
  • Bathing
  • Brushing hair and teeth
  • Toileting
  • Getting dressed
  • Walking
  • Getting in and out of bed or a chair

What Are IADLs?

IADLs is short for instrumental activities of daily living. In terms of senior care, this means all of the tasks required to live independently. They usually involve more complex thinking and organizational skills. For example, balancing a checkbook and paying bills are instrumental to living a self-sufficient life. Here are some common IADLs:

  • Shopping
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Driving or using public transportation

Why Are ADLs & IADLs Important To Caregiving?

A senior’s ability to perform ADLs is going to have a large effect on any caregiving decision. Why? Because, someone who needs little help with ADLs may simply need assistance from family members or perhaps a home care agency. But, in contrast, someone who is unable to perform several ADLs or IADLs may need more specialized attention available at an assisted living facility or even a nursing home.

Choosing The Right Senior Care

companion care playing a puzzle

The first step to effectively choosing the right senior care for a loved one is to recognize limitations. Identifying which ADLs someone needs assistance with will help determine your options. Here are some common senior care choices:

Assisted living is a long-term care option for those who would benefit from some extra care, but don’t quite need a medical facility. This type of senior housing combines caregiving and independence in a home-like setting. Read more about assisted living here.

A nursing home is for seniors who don’t need a hospital but require a higher level of care or medical attention than can be provided at home or in assisted living. Nursing homes provide structured schedules, meals, and around-the-clock medical treatment. Read more about nursing homes here.


A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) has the unique quality of combining traditional retirement living with the services of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Read more about CCRCs here.

Home care includes a wide range of services and supports to provide ways to maintain independence, stay safe, and remain in your own home longer. Find home care near me.

Do You Need Something Else?

Whether it’s time for a change, or you’re just doing some research, we can help! At, we believe in the empowerment of older adults and their caregivers through knowledge. But, we also understand that at this juncture of life, time is your most valuable asset. So, why waste it doing another internet search? Senior Resource is your one-stop spot for all things retirement. We do the work and find all the facts, just so you don’t have to! exists to provide aging adults, retirees, and caregivers with applicable, and educational content, relevant to the over 55 community. As such, we address topics like senior housing, nursing care, and aging in place.

Want to read more senior-living articles? Then start here!


Need help with retirement planning? Then, check out Bob Carlson’s Retirement Watch!

Originally published June 06, 2022

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