When you really get serious about retirement and start doing your research on senior living communities, you’ll quickly encounter a ton of new words and phrases. For instance, you’ll learn the difference between independent living and assisted living. And that’s when another new phrase will be added to your ever-expanding vocabulary: instrumental activities of daily living, or IADLs if you want to sound super hip and with it.

So right about now you’re probably asking yourself what the heck is an instrumental activity of daily living and why should I care? If you’re not asking yourself that, you surely must have asked Google or browsed around on our site, because you’re reading this blog post.

Activities of Daily Living vs. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Let’s start with a definition or two:

Activities of daily living (ADL) — These are the basic activities essential for someone to survive without assistance. They include things like the ability to dress oneself appropriately; to feed oneself, to walk, sit and stand up; to go to the bathroom and use proper hygiene.

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) — These  are defined as activities that aren’t necessary for survival, but that aid in living a full life. IADLs help one flourish as a person in the community and be completely self-reliant in care and health.

Examples of ADLs and IADLs

Activities of daily living include basic activities, such as:

  • Bathing, showering and generally cleaning oneself
  • Choosing appropriate clothes and getting dressed
  • Using the bathroom without assistance 
  • Walking and being able to get around, whether at home or out and about
  • Moving from one position to another, such as getting into and out of a bathtub, chair or bed
  • Eating and using appropriate silverware to feed oneself

Instrumental activities of daily living include:

  • Using the phone, checking email and other basic communication skills
  • Either driving oneself or being able to arrange rides and/or use public transportation
  • Meal preparation, including planning, cooking and cleaning up
  • Shopping and choosing  appropriate foods, clothing, etc.
  • Performing housework and home maintenance, such as doing laundry, washing dishes and vacuuming
  • Managing medications, including taking the right pills at the appropriate time and getting prescriptions refilled
  • Managing personal finances by operating within a budget, writing checks, paying bills and avoiding scams

ADLs, IADLs and Senior Care Living Options

It’s  important for older adults who want to continue living independently or for family caregivers who want to ensure their loved ones get the right level of long-term care to understand the differences between ADLs and IADLs, and what it means if someone is struggling to perform one or more of these activities.

Generally, it’s harder to recognize initial deterioration of IADLs, even though these skills tend to leave us first. Failing to be able to consistently perform an activity of daily living or even an instrumental activity of daily living may mean you should look into long-term assisted living options. And that’s OK.

Why We Care About ADLs and IADLs

An inability to perform certain ADLs and IADLs doesn’t just determine the level of assistance required. It’s also a metric for a variety of services and programs related to senior care. At Peace Village, we want to make sure our residents get the help and support they need, whether they’re taking advantage of our independent living apartments or are enjoying our assisted living services. If you’d like to learn more about our community and all our living options, we’re here to help.