What Are Activities of Daily Living

Nurse Assisting Senior Woman

According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of seniors is projected to outnumber their children for the first time in United States history by 2034. As our population ages, there is an increased need to help our beloved seniors with activities of daily living, from cleaning and cooking to doing the laundry. Learning how to carry out the necessary tasks to assist your elderly loved one can be quite overwhelming for families. This article will guide you through the different activities of daily living, how to properly support each one, and what actions you can take to ensure your loved one stays safe and healthy. 

If your elderly loved one needs help with activities of daily living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, don’t hesitate to contact Amara Home Care. We have proudly helped seniors in both southeast Tennessee and North Georgia for over ten years! 

Basic Activities of Daily Living

Activities of Daily Living are classified into two categories: Basic Activities of Daily Living, or BADLs, and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs. Basic ADLs are skills required to manage one’s basic needs. They are routine tasks that most young, healthy individuals can perform without assistance. Basic ADL skills include: 

  • Mobility: The ability to move from one position to another and walk independently.
  • Dressing: The ability to select clothing and to dress oneself.
  • Personal Hygiene: The ability to tend to personal hygiene functions, including bathing and grooming.
  • Feeding: The ability to feed oneself.
  • Continence: The ability to control bladder and bowel function.
  • Toileting: The ability to use the toilet and clean oneself.

Being aware of the Basic ADLs and knowing how well your loved one can carry them out will help determine whether they need daily assistance.


Are you finding that your elderly loved one has trouble getting from one place to another? Is it hard for them to go from sitting to standing or transfer from one position to another? If this capability is becoming increasingly difficult for your loved one, more intensive levels of care will need to be considered. While you want to support your elderly loved one in using their abilities, you must also keep safety in mind. Two important things to consider while helping with mobility are having two feet planted firmly on the ground before moving and having no-slip shoes or slippers. Traction and stability are the primary concerns because of the increasing risk of falling over time.


Similar to mobility, this Basic Activity of Daily Living includes the ability to choose proper clothing and get dressed independently. If this is becoming difficult for your loved one, here are a few useful tips: 

  • Minimize clothing choices to avoid frustration and confusion.
  • Use more accessible fastenings, like Velcro or elastic waistbands.
  • Create a system to identify clean versus dirty clothes easily.

Personal Hygiene

Does your loved one need help with bathing, or can they do this task independently? Different options are available to help improve their mobility within the bath or shower. Some examples include bath lifts, walk-in showers, and shower seats. It is wise to invest in a skid-proof bath rug to prevent falling, keep the area tidy and clean, and offer simple clothing choices to make your elderly loved one’s experience easy and enjoyable. 


When it comes to assisting your loved one who may struggle with the ability to feed themselves, you can begin by learning the types of food they prefer. You may even want to reach out to your community to help with meal preparation and create a calendar so that your loved one has organized visits during mealtime. Adaptive utensils like weighted utensils, utensil holders, and non-skid plates and bowls can all be helpful during mealtime.

Continence and Toileting

Millions of Americans experience temporary or chronic urinary incontinence and symptoms of urinary urgency. If this happens to your senior, there are many ways to help. Some lifestyle changes that you can help them make include: supplying them with easily removable underwear, buying them absorbent adult briefs to wear outside the home, encouraging bathroom visits often, and helping them decrease their intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol. A medical professional should be contacted immediately if symptoms become unmanageable.

You will also want to see if your loved one can clean themselves properly after using the bathroom. If they are having trouble properly cleaning or need help getting on and off the toilet, they may require higher professional care.

What is the Difference Between BADLs and IADLs?

While Basic ADLs focus on one’s physical needs, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living include more complex activities related to the ability to live independently and in the community. IADLs include higher-level cognitive and organizational skills. The following are considered IADLs:

  • Meal Preparation.
  • Housework/Home Maintenance: All the actions needed to maintain a clean home.
  • Communication: The ability to manage communication with others, including using the telephone.
  • Medication Management: Ability to obtain medications and take them as directed.
  • Managing Finances
  • Transportation and Shopping: The ability to get groceries, attend appointments, and manage transport.

Meal Preparation

Meal preparation includes the ability to organize objects into storage, cook, clean, meal plan, and go to the grocery store. This Instrumental Activity of Daily Living also includes the safe use of utensils and kitchen equipment while cooking. It can also include the ability to order groceries online correctly. If your loved one finds it challenging to navigate the kitchen, shop, or prepare meals regularly, it may be time to consider a higher level of involvement. Some ideas include having meal routines, protection from hot devices, and involving friends and family to help by establishing a food calendar. Another helpful resource includes Meals-on-Wheels programs, which regularly bring cooked meals to your loved one.

Housework / Home Maintenance

Your elderly loved one must be able to maintain their home to maintain their independence. You may need to help them with different aspects of laundry, folding clothes, vacuuming, and even pet care. Ensuring that everything in their home has a specific place and is organized neatly allows your elderly loved one to stay in control. A clean and tidy space also helps prevent falls and confusion.


If your elderly loved one knows how to use the internet, they might need your help sending emails. Mobile phone users could need assistance with dialing numbers, texting, and video chat. This Instrumental Activity of Daily Living is vital for your loved one’s ability to remain social with their friends and family. Also, do not forget to educate them on the different scams, reminding them not to pick up calls or click on links from unknown senders as seniors can be a primary target. 

Medication Management

Pay attention to how your loved one is taking their medication each day. Are they taking the right amount, and are they taking it regularly? If they struggle to manage medications, they might need extra help. Check the dosage, how often they take it, and the type of medication. If you find that they are taking too much or too little, this could be a serious threat to their health. A home health agency, such as Amara Home Care in Chattanooga can help with medication management.

Managing Finances

Bookkeeping and basic administrative activities necessary for daily functioning are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. This one can be tricky if your loved one suffers from memory issues. Pay attention to how well they do with depositing funds, paying bills and credit cards, and managing their checkbook. If you find that they forget crucial financial information, misplace money, or cannot remember essential account information, it will be time to step in.

Transportation and Shopping

It might be unsafe for your elderly loved one to continue driving a vehicle, which is normal. You might need to do the shopping for them or take them places. You can consider a home care agency to take them to different appointments and errands. Having a companion or others help with transportation and shopping is an excellent way to share responsibility and give your loved one much-needed social interaction.

When Is It Time for Senior Care?

When your loved one is struggling to perform daily activities independently, it is time to start thinking about added levels of care. Whether your senior is a match for residential care, home care, or an alternative type of care will depend mainly on your senior’s level of need for help. While some seniors’ needs might be less noticeable, others will be more obvious. You will want to be diligent about tracking your loved one’s ability to perform ADLs and IADLs to be preemptive and know when to match them with the appropriate type of care. 

What Is a Katz Assessment?

The Katz Assessment is a questionnaire to help you determine how much assistance your loved one needs. It examines items such as continence, dressing, bathing, transferring, etc. The test assigns points for dependence or independence based on whether they can perform the actions on their own. A Katz Assessment will allow you as a caregiver to understand what amount and type of additional help is necessary for your loved one.

What Is a Lawton-Brody Assessment? 

Another common assessment, similar to the Katz Assessment, is the Lawton-Brody Assessment. It evaluates food preparation, shopping, phone use, transportation, finances, etc. By choosing from different statements to find the best one that reflects your loved one’s needs, you will gain valuable insight into your senior’s level of functionality and the ability to remain independent.


We hope that this guide allowed you to become familiar with the Activities of Daily Living and identify the difference between Basic ADLs and Instrumental ADLs. To better get to know your loved one’s level of ability and need, take the time to perform the Katz Assessment and the Lawton-Brody Assessment. Being proactive and establishing a baseline will help you create a plan of action that is best for your loved one and yourself.

If you struggle to take care of your loved one or need extra assistance, Amara Home Care in Chattanooga, TN, is happy to help! Whether you need 24-hour care or respite care, don’t hesitate to contact us today

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