There are eight instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) that are used to determine a senior’s ability to be self-sufficient and what services are needed to support living independently. Unlike basic activities of daily living (ADLs) that relate to personal care and are central to day-to-day function, IADLs are more complex tasks that are necessary for truly independent living. IADLs tend to weaken in the earlier stages of illness, while ADLs often weaken in the middle to later stages.

Read: Activities of Daily Living Defined

IADLs: What Are They?

Instrumental activities of daily living fall into categories of skill that require certain levels of both physical and cognitive ability. Assessing the level of functioning in these areas provides an effective measure of how different impairments affect a person’s ability to live alone. Skill levels range from independent proficiency to requiring outside assistance for completion.

  1. Cooking: Is the individual able to plan, prepare and serve adequate meals?
  2. Managing Medications: Is the individual capable of taking correct dosages of medications at the right times? Is the individual capable of the above if their medications are organized in separate dosages in advance?
  3. Shopping: Is the individual able to independently shop for all of their needs, including clothing and groceries?
  4. Communicating via Telephone: Is the individual able to operate the telephone and look up and dial phone numbers?
  5. Managing Money and Finances: Is the individual able to independently budget, write checks, pay bills, make trips to the bank, and monitor income and expenses?
  6. Performing Housework: Is the individual able to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness throughout the home?
  7. Driving or Using Public Transportation: Is the individual able to drive, use public transportation or arrange for a taxi service?
  8. Laundering Clothing: Is the individual able to wash and dry their personal laundry?

How Are IADLs Supported?

It is possible for a senior to need assistance in only some areas, but still be capable of handling their own self-care. A geriatric care manager, primary care physician or occupational therapist can provide a functional assessment to determine the amount and type of help a senior requires as well as what a care plan should entail.

Hiring in-home care to support IADLs allows for valuable assistance with identified needs, plus the added benefit of companionship and meaningful social interaction for the senior. In the home care industry, when one receives assistance with IADLs, it is often referred to as homemaker services or companion care.


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For this reason, home care services to support a senior’s IADLs are paid for out of pocket. In some cases, limited IADL assistance may be covered if the client also requires significant help with ADLs and/or medically necessary skilled nursing care provided in the home.

Read: How to Pay for In-Home Care