Activities of Daily Living





What are Activities of Daily Living?

Daily tasks are usually called Activities of Daily Living by the health care community. They are personal care and mobility activities that are performed daily and are necessary for independent living. They are not always defined the same but usually include:

  • feeding
  • dressing
  • bathing
  • moving from a bed to a chair (also called transferring)
  • toileting
  • walking


There is another group of tasks identified by professionals that is more comprehensive than Activities of Daily Living. These tasks are called Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. They include:

  • using the telephone
  • getting to places beyond walking distance
  • grocery shopping
  • preparing meals
  • housework
  • laundry
  • taking medications
  • managing money

Professionals use a scale of a person's ability to perform these tasks as evidence of their ability to live and function independently and they often serve as indicators of eligibility for assistance, both financial and hands-on, and as eligibility for long-term care placement, either assisted living or nursing home care.

It can be difficult for a new caregiver to undertake these tasks for a loved one. Finding help through services such as occupational therapy, in-home aide service, and/or adaptive equipment will greatly ease the burden of care.




Assistive Technology

Assistive technology can be high-tech or low-tech, commonplace or out-of-the ordinary. We are used to thinking of assistive technology such as:

  • wheelchairs
  • walkers
  • canes
  • computer adaptations
  • telephone relay systems

However, assistive technology can be items such as:

  • zipper pulls
  • magnifiers
  • rubber grip utensils
  • pills from pharmacists with labels in larger print
  • clocks or watches programmed to beep for medications
  • a watch with easy to see numbering
  • doors with locks that don't require a key
  • doors that have a lever instead of a knob
  • bath safety equipment such as grab bars a shower seat and non-slip floor covering
  • dentures
  • velcro instead of buttons
  • color coordinated tags on clothing

Anything that can be used to help a person live an independent life safely can be termed assistive technology.


You can find assistive technology devices and equipment in specialty stores, drugstores, through your Doctor, and on the Internet. If you would like personalized assistance to help you determine what products would be best for your family member, contact your local Area Agency on Aging for information and referral.

Logo There is also a very helpful government website that provides information on products related to care issues including assistance/nurse call, falls, wandering, incontinence, bathing, medication management, and resident lifts and transfers.


The site was developed as a result of a research project initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services to address barriers to bringing new technologies into residential care settings.



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