Activities of Daily Living Details

Activities of daily living are essential daily tasks that most people can do without help. The basic list of ADLs refers to six fundamental activities:

  • Eating: a person can feed themself.
  • Bathing and showering: a person can keep themself clean, brush their teeth, and groom.
  • Dressing and undressing.
  • Toilet: a person can get to the toilet, clean themself and leave by themself.
  • Mobility: a person can move around, sit and stand.
  • Continence: a person can control bladder and bowel functions.

Many people, as they get older, begin to lose the capacity to perform these tasks. They tend to do so in predictable stages. Generally, the first loss is in personal hygiene. People do not keep themselves clean and become careless in dressing. The next activities that go are those of toilet use and continence, finally followed by eating. Whether or not a person can perform ADLs is a criterion that is useful in deciding a person's condition concerning health coverage and decisions on care.

The list above concerns the basic ADLs, but there is another level of ADLs known as Instrumental ADLs. These instrumental activities are not essential to fundamental existence but do allow a person to live independently. These activities include such things as being able to maintain a house, handle money, prepare meals, take medications according to a prescription, use the telephone and move around the community.

Activities of Daily Living Example

Stanley has recently celebrated his 80th birthday and is in reasonable health. He lives on his own, although he is closely supported by his daughter, Anne, and her husband, George. Anne and George believe that Stanley will benefit from having regular visits from a home health assistant. This assistant would help Stanley with basic chores around the house, do some shopping for him, keep track of his medications and appointments and make sure he gets sufficient exercise. This would take pressure off Anne and George and is fully covered by Stanley's health insurance.

Anne and George feel that Stanley can continue to live in his own home and would be depressed if he had to leave it to move into a residential care facility. However, they are aware that Stanley's long-term health insurance will only cover nursing costs if he cannot do two of the six basic ADLs.

With the development of new medical technologies, techniques, medications, and healthier lifestyles, people live longer lives (life expectancy in the USA is nearly 79 years and nearly 82 in Canada). There are business opportunities for companies that provide goods and services to the growing market of elderly people and job openings for people who care for the elderly. However, insurance companies and federal and state governments face ever-mounting costs as demand for medical and care services increase with age. Pension plan providers are now liable to pay pensions for longer periods and face challenges that their actuaries underestimated.