Maintaining our ability to perform daily tasks becomes increasingly important for a fulfilling and autonomous lifestyle when we get older. This is where Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) come into play. 

In this article, we will explore what ADLs and IADLs are, how they can be assessed and how caregivers can provide support to help seniors maintain their independence. 

What exactly are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

ADLs refer to the basic tasks and activities that individuals perform on a daily basis to take care of themselves and maintain their independence. These activities encompass essential self-care skills such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating, transferring from one position to another, and walking. My Legacy@LifeSG  has provided a clearer definition of the ADLs and what each component stands for.

For seniors, being able to carry out these ADLs is crucial for their overall well-being and quality of life. The ability to independently perform these tasks can greatly impact their sense of dignity and autonomy.

What are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)?

In addition to the basic activities of daily living (ADLs), there are also Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). These tasks require a higher level of cognitive functioning and coordination. IADLs are more complex and involve skills that enable individuals to live independently in their community.

Here are some examples of IADLs

  • Managing finances, such as paying bills and balancing a chequebook.
  • Meal preparation, which involves planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking. 
  • Transportation includes driving or arranging alternate means of transportation for appointments or social engagements.
  • Housekeeping chores like doing laundry, cleaning, and maintaining a safe home environment. 
  • Managing medications effectively

How do caregivers assess ADLs and IADLs?

There are several ways to assess the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

To assess ADLs, caregivers can observe and evaluate a senior’s ability to perform essential self-care tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, transferring or moving about, and eating. These activities are fundamental for maintaining personal hygiene and overall well-being.

Assessing IADLs involves evaluating a senior’s ability to manage finances, use transportation effectively, prepare meals and complete household chores like cleaning or laundry. It also includes assessing their capacity for medication management and communication skills.

Caregivers employ various methods for assessing ADLs and IADLs. They may use questionnaires or checklists specifically designed for this purpose. Additionally, direct observation allows them to witness firsthand how seniors navigate through these activities.

Dementia Hub has created a list to aid in identifying the appropriate tool for assessing ADLs, detailing each tool’s strengths and limitations.

How can carers help seniors with their IADLs and ADLs?

Caregivers play a crucial role in helping seniors with their ADLs and IADLs. These tasks may seem simple to us, but for many older adults, they can become challenging due to physical limitations or cognitive decline. As caregivers step in, they provide the necessary support and assistance that enable seniors to maintain their independence and quality of life.

When it comes to ADLs, caregivers help with basic personal care tasks. They ensure that the senior is clean, comfortable, and able to move around safely. This often involves assisting with transfers from bed to chair or wheelchair, if needed.

In addition to ADLs, caregivers can also assist with IADLs. These include managing finances and bills, grocery shopping and meal preparation, medication management and transportation arrangements for appointments or social outings.

How to effectively support seniors with both ADLs and IADLs activities

1. Communication: Caregivers need open communication channels with the senior in order to understand their specific needs and preferences.
2. Patience: It’s important for caregivers to be patient while providing assistance, as some tasks may take seniors a longer time to carry out due to mobility issues or cognitive impairments.
3. Adaptability: Each senior has unique needs, so caregivers must adapt their approach accordingly.
4. Empathy: Understanding the challenges faced by seniors helps caregivers provide compassionate care.
5. Collaboration: Working closely with healthcare professionals ensures that all aspects of a senior’s well-being are addressed.

Remember that each individual requires different levels of assistance depending on their abilities – what works for one person might not work for another! So, it’s important for caregivers to personalise their approach and provide the necessary support.


Assessing a senior’s ability to perform ADLs and IADLs is crucial in determining their level of independence and identifying areas where they may need assistance or support. 

Caregivers play a vital role in supporting seniors with their ADLs and IADLs. They provide physical assistance when necessary but also encourage independence by promoting skill development or using assistive devices. 

By assisting seniors with their ADLs and IADLs, caregivers not only ensure their safety but also contribute to their overall well-being. Let’s continue fostering an environment that promotes active ageing for our beloved seniors!

If you are aware of elderly people in your neighbourhood who are facing social isolation, Fei Yue Community Services provides Community Case Management Services (CCMS). These services aim to assist the elderly in preventing or delaying institutionalisation, particularly for seniors with complex care needs.

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