“Activities of Daily Living.” What Does this Phrase Mean to Me?

The phrase, “activities of daily living” has come to be a familiar term to those involved with either an older adult or a disabled person. This term may be abbreviated as “ADL’s” and refers to a person’s abilities to do every day routine personal and physically related tasks. Hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, retirement and assisted living communities, nursing homes and in-home care providers routinely assess a person’s abilities to perform personal care related tasks as a means of measuring a person’s need for outside intervention and assistance.
In general, “Activities of Daily Living” refer to a person’s ability to independently and successfully complete daily hygienic needs such as taking a bath/shower, performing grooming needs such as combing hair, brushing teeth, applying deodorant and skin lotion etc. Also included in this rating is a person’s ability to select proper clothing, remove existing clothing and put on clean and appropriate clothing (daytime wear versus bedtime clothing), the ability to move around a person’s immediate environment independently such as getting up off a chair or sofa, walking from one room to another, getting into and out of bed, answering the door, exiting the living environment and finally their ability to control their own bodily functions in a safe and sanitary manner. This last factor can include the person’s ability to sense when they need to toilet themselves, the ability to physically get from where they are to the toilet; arrange clothing so as to be able to void and not soil their clothing; sit/stand to void in the toilet; rearrange clothing after the voiding process and the washing of hands to prevent the spread of infection/contamination.

By using these parameters to assess a person’s independence this assessment tool can help detect areas in a persons’ life where additional help may enhance their personal safety and extend their ability to live as independent for as long as practical.