What Are Instrumental Activities Of Daily Living, And How Do They Differ From Standard Activities Of Daily Living?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

In the intricate dance of life, each day brings tasks that play vital roles in maintaining our autonomy, dignity, and quality of life. These tasks, often taken for granted, are broadly categorized into two groups: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living vs. Standard Activities of Daily Living. The “activities of daily living vs. instrumental activities of daily living” debate goes far beyond academic parlance—it forms the cornerstone of assessing and ensuring independence in various stages of life, especially for seniors or individuals with disabilities.

Confused About Long-Term Care Insurance?

Are you new to LTCI and unsure where to begin? Visit our Learning Lab for expert guidance and insights.

Deciphering the Terms: ADLs vs IADLs

For a clear understanding, we must first delineate between ADLs and IADLs. Standard Activities of Daily Living or ADLs are basic self-care tasks, the essential chores we perform to exist in our daily lives. ADLs encompass routine activities like bathing, dressing, eating, maintaining continence, and mobility.

On the other hand, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are slightly more complex activities we conduct for independent living within a community. They typically involve skills like managing finances, doing housework, shopping for groceries, preparing meals, using a telephone or other communication devices, and handling medication. Social security benefits can support individuals in managing these activities as they age.

Imagine ADLs as the foundation of a building and IADLs as the next level built on that foundation. Without the stability of the first, the second can’t stand.

Instrumental Activities Of Daily Living Vs. Standard Activities Of Daily Living

The Subtle Interplay of ADLs and IADLs

While it may seem like a stark distinction between ADLs and IADLs, the interplay between these two groups of tasks paints a comprehensive picture of an individual’s capability to live independently, ADLs and IADLs are intertwined in many ways, and one deficiency could affect the other.

For instance, consider a senior citizen who has difficulty dressing (an ADL). This challenge could indirectly affect their ability to shop for groceries (an IADL) because they may feel self-conscious or physically uncomfortable going out in public. This example illustrates how ADLs and IADLs can affect each other and, by extension, a person’s overall level of independence.

Instrumental Activities Of Daily Living And Standard Activities Of Daily Living

How ADLs and IADLs Influence Healthcare Decisions

Understanding the contrast and connection between “activities of daily living vs. instrumental activities of daily living” is crucial in healthcare contexts, especially for senior care, rehabilitation, and long-term care planning. Professionals often assess an individual’s ADLs and IADLs to gauge the required type and level of care.

For instance, an individual who can manage ADLs but struggles with IADLs may only require occasional assistance. In contrast, someone who struggles with both may require more intensive care or even assisted living.

Next Steps

While the distinction between ADLs and IADLs may seem clinical or academic, it’s a critical part of our daily lives. Recognizing the importance of these tasks—whether we’re evaluating our independence or the independence of loved ones—brings us one step closer to ensuring the quality of life and dignity for all, no matter their stage of life or ability level.

Instrumental Activities Of Daily Living Vs. Standard Activities Of Daily Living

Request A Quote

Get help from a licensed financial professional. This service is free of charge.

Contact Us

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are IADLs essential to assess in long-term care settings?

IADLs are essential in long-term care to determine an individual’s ability to live independently.

How does the ability to perform IADLs impact an individual’s overall quality of life?

The ability to perform IADLs affects an individual’s independence and overall quality of life.

What is an instrumental activity of daily living?

The instrumental activity of daily living (IADL) refers to a slightly more complex task necessary for independent living, such as managing finances, doing housework, shopping, meal preparation, communication, and medication management.

Why is it important to measure both ADLs and IADLs?

Measuring Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) is essential to comprehensively assess a person’s functional abilities, enabling a better understanding of their overall independence and the level of care they may require.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

Scroll to Top