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Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are essential and routine tasks that most young, healthy individuals can perform without assistance. An inability to accomplish such everyday tasks can lead to unsafe conditions and poor quality of life. Measurement of an individual’s ADL is important as these are predictors of a need for alternative living arrangements, hospitalization, admission to nursing homes or use of paid home care.

One industry standard of the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework defines ADL as “activities that are oriented toward taking care of one’s own body.” It is divided into 9 areas:

  • Bathing/showering
  • Toileting and toilet hygiene
  • Dressing
  • Eating/swallowing
  • Feeding (setting up, arranging, bringing food to mouth) 
  • Functional mobility (ability to get from place to place, while performing ADLs, either under one’s own power or with the assistance of a wheelchair or other assistive device)
  • Personal device care (using essential personal care items such as hearing aids, contact lenses, glasses, orthotics, walker)
  • Personal hygiene and grooming 
  • Sexual activity 

The healthcare team

Typically, individuals with limited ADL have an interprofessional, healthcare team—including the OT clinician—to enhance their care and management. Together, the healthcare team:

  • Assesses and details the impact of ADLs on patient functioning
  • Describes causes of limitations and declines in ADLs, using common measures
  • Defines team roles, including assistance with feeding, dressing, hygiene and bathing; determining special equipment needs; assessing related behavioral issues

OT clinicians assists their clients in engaging in meaningful and purposeful daily tasks. OT therapy:

  • Incorporates activities to improve communication, language skills and social skills 
  • Incorporates cognitive skills to improve processing of tasks logic short- and long-term memory 
  • Adapts the environment to the need
  • Educates the family

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