ADLs and IADLs 

They may sound similar, but knowing the difference between an ADL and an IADL can affect the type of care your loved one can get — and whether it’s covered by your insurance.


ADL stands for Activities of Daily Living. There are six basic ADLs, which relate to the tasks a person’s must be able to do to take basic care of themselves.

The ADLs are:

  1. Personal grooming, including brushing one’s teeth, combing their hair, and, for men, shaving. Personal grooming is usually the first ADL to be lost during the aging process.
  2. Bathing includes washing one’s face, as well as bathing and showering independently.
  3. Dressing involves the ability to dress and undress oneself, as well as the ability to choose appropriate clothing to wear.
  4. Toileting involvess getting to the toilet on time, being able to clean oneself, and the ability to get up from the toilet.
  5. Mobility is a broad category that includes walking and getting in and out of a chair or a bed. However, a person who is confined to a wheelchair is not necessarily immobile. For those who are wheelchair-bound, mobility refers to the ability to transfer oneself in and out of the wheelchair.
  6. Eating is the ability to feed oneself. This is usually the last ADL an elderly person loses.


IADL stands for Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. While ADLs are basic tasks, IADLs are more sophisticated, but are still required for independent living. ADLs involve physical self-care, but IADLs require higher-level thinking skills, including organization.

ADLs and IADLs are seldom assessed together, since their implications are different. A person who cannot perform ADLs will need much more hands-on help than one who has trouble with IADLs.

It is important to note that IADLs do not necessarily need to be accomplished independently. Some, such as housecleaning, can be delegated. The essence of an IADL is that the person is able to ensure that the task is done safely and effectively.

The IADLs are:

  1. Money management, including paying bills on time, and otherwise and making responsible decisions about money. Someone who cannot perform the IADL of money management well is more likely to fall for a scam, or otherwise be taken advantage of financially.
  2. Meal preparation, including shopping for and preparing appropriate meals.
  3. Home maintenance includes upkeep of the home, keeping the home clean, and doing laundry.
  4. Transportation refers to the ability to drive or use other means of transportation to travel outside the home. It is distinguished from the ADL of mobility, which refers to the person’s ability to move themselves inside the home.
  5. Communication refers to the ability to use the telephone, as well as other modes of communication such as mail service and, for those who were accustomed to doing so, to using email.
  6. Medication management includes being able to assure that all required medications are always on hand, and being able to take them as directed.

Click here for a complete checklist of ADLs and IADLs.

If your loved one has difficulty with ADLs or IADLs, they may be eligible for assistance through Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. However, the guidelines are complex, and take into account the age of the patient, whether they are recovering from surgery, and whether they are expected to ever improve.

If you need help negotiating the complex eldercare maze, contact us at Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center. Our Admissions Team is well versed in all the nuances of Medicare/Medicaid and HMOs and can help you get the care your loved one is entitled to.

At Laurel Bay, your loved one will receive the highest quality rehabilitative and skilled nursing care in a homelike and compassionate environment conducive to healing.

Our family-owned and -operated 123-bed facility, is tucked away in the quiet beach town of Keansburg, NJ at the Jersey Shore, within sight of Sandy Hook and the New York City skyline.

We pride ourselves on healing the entire patient through a holistic and individualized approach. Our meticulous care planning helps us ensure that each and every resident receives the best in clinical care, support and unconditional love.

For over 25 years, we have been a staple of health and wellness, serving the members of our community and partnering with our local hospitals like Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, NJ and Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, NJ.

Read our reviews on, wellness.comand to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.

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