Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

What are the activities of daily living?

Activities of daily living (ADL) are routine activities that people do everyday without help. There are six basic ADLs: eating, washing, dressing, going to the bathroom, transferring and continence. The performance of these LDAs is important in determining what type of long-term care and health coverage, such as Medicare, Medicaid or long-term care insurance, that a person will need as they age.

Key points to remember

  • Activities of daily living are basic daily tasks that most people are used to doing without assistance.
  • The ability to perform ADLs is used to help determine the medical condition of medical coverage and long-term care decisions.
  • Assisted living facilities, home care providers and nursing homes specialize in providing care and services to those who cannot perform ADL themselves.


Activities of daily living (ADL)

Understanding activities of daily living (ADL)

Almost half of Americans who reach age 65 – a current retirement age – will eventually enter a health care facility because they are unable to perform specific ADLs. While the majority of admissions to care facilities will be short term (less than a year), approximately one quarter will remain for more than a year. Typically, long term care insurance coverage for nursing costs requires a person who is unable to perform two or more of the six ADLs.

ADL and independent living

Being able to perform ADLs as you age is directly linked to independent living, as doctors and adult caregivers use DSAs to determine if a person needs an assisted or home living nursing. Why are ADLs so important? Because they affect a person’s ability to do housework, prepare their own meals, shop, drive or use public transportation, and take prescription drugs. They can also place the person in front of dangers such as falling on the stairs or slipping in the shower.

Those who need help with ADLs can choose home care, assisted living, or home nursing. In some cases, families can help those in need to make the decision between transitioning to an assisted living community or choosing home care. In extreme cases, families may have to transfer someone to a care facility without consent.

Families often hire home health workers to provide ADL assistance when the person lives at home or in an assisted living community and needs some care, but not comprehensive care. Home health workers help people engage in ADLs and support independent living by helping them with daily activities such as shopping, reminding them to take the right medication, and accompanying them on walks. Health insurance can cover some or all of the cost of hiring licensed home health workers, depending on the person’s policy, and most licensed home health workers are registered nurse assistants from the state.

Those who transition to nursing homes do so because they can only enroll in few or no ADL alone. In most situations, when a person is transferred to a nursing home, a team of doctors, nurses and health aides oversees 24-hour care in the facility.

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