Activities of Daily Living Defined


The six activities of daily living (ADLs) are used as measures for determining the level of care a senior requires and their eligibility for services and financial assistance.

ADLs: What are they?

Activities of daily living fall into six categories of basic skills needed to properly care for oneself. Each category is assessed for the ability to safely complete these tasks without direction, supervision or assistance.

  1. Eating: Is the individual able to move food and drink successfully from the table to the mouth?
  2. Bathing: Is the individual able to get in and out of the shower or bath without assistance? Is the individual able to fully wash their body and hair?
  3. Dressing: Is the individual able to choose appropriate clothing and put on and take off these items, including fastening and unfastening them properly?
  4. Continence: Can the individual maintain control over urination and defecation?
  5. Toileting: Is the individual able to transfer on and off of the toilet, clean the genitals and resecure their clothing?
  6. Transferring: Is the individual able to move to and from a chair and bed without the assistance of another person? Use of assistive devices is acceptable.

The amount of assistance required in completing each of these activities is used to determine the level of care an individual requires and what their care plan should entail. For this reason, most state and federally funded programs, home care companies, adult day care programs, and senior housing facilities require an ADL assessment as the starting point for establishing a person’s suitability or eligibility for services and/or coverage.

Functional assessments can be made by a family doctor or an occupational therapist. However, long-term care insurance agencies typically employ assessors to make eligibility determinations. One of the best resources for beginning the assessment and application process is your local Area Agency on Aging. AAAs can let you know where you need to have an assessment done, and, in some cases, may actually be able to provide the assessment.

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