Activities of Daily Living

Activities of Daily Living (ADL) refer to a range of common tasks required for personal care and independent community living. In general, an individual must be able to manage all ADLs in order to qualify for independent living, may need assistance with one or two ADL to choose accommodation in a retirement residence, or will need human assistance with several ADLs and therefore require long-term care.

These activities are typically divided into three categories: 

Physical ADL

Refers to the most basic tasks required to live independently within your home environment. These activities are acquired in a hierarchical order in childhood and tend to be lost in the reverse order as one ages. Competency in feeding, continence, transferring (moving in and out of bed or chair) attending to self at the toilet, dressing and bathing are all essential to independent living. 

Instrumental DLA

Describes more complex activities needed for independent living in a community setting and includes: handling personal finances, meal preparation, shopping, traveling, and doing housework. Ability to accomplish these activities is usually assessed as: can do unaided, can do with help (with mechanical devices or human help), or can’t do. 


Or the ability to get around. Mobility is often assessed within the above two categories.

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