Activities of Daily Living

When a typical person gets up in the morning, they sit up and throw their feet over the edge of the bed. Then they stand and walk to the bathroom. They take care of toileting, then shower, brush their teeth and many other activities to prepare themselves for the day.

When it comes time to think about food, they plan a menu, shop for the foods they want to eat and prepare their meals. Next, they sit down to eat. After the meal, they clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes.

All these activities, and many others, are referred to as Activities of Daily Living.

What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

Activity of Daily Living (or ADL) is a term used by healthcare professionals to refer to the basic self-care tasks an individual does on a day-to-day basis. These activities are fundamental in caring for oneself and maintaining independence. An individual's ability or inability to perform ADLs is often used by health professionals as a way of measuring an individual’s functional status, especially that of older adults or those with disabilities.

Basic ADLs are self-care activities routinely performed which include (but are not limited to):

  • Functional mobility, which includes the ability to walk and transfer in and out of a chair or bed. Essentially, it's the ability to move from one place to another as a person goes through their daily routines.
  • Personal hygiene, oral care and grooming, including skin and hair care
  • Showering and/or bathing
  • Toileting, which includes getting on/off toilet and cleaning oneself
  • Dressing, which includes selecting appropriate attire and putting it on
  • Self-feeding

One way to look at basic ADLs is to think of them as the activities a person does when they get up in the morning preparing to leave the house and those they do regularly day in and day out.

As a person grows, ADLs slowly become easier to accomplish independently and as we learn and develop or our core skills. Certain health issues, such as a cerebral palsy, or accidents, such as a fall, also affect a person’s ability to accomplish ADLs, sometimes dramatically and as Occupational Therapists it is our job to support children to have the opportunities to learn and develop to achieve independence in their activities of daily living.


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