Daily Living Checklist For Seniors

Activities of daily living: a checklist for seniors.

activities of daily living

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Try and imagine waking up in the morning. What are things that you typically do? How do you get yourself out of bed? Do you throw your feet over the edge, stand, and walk straight to the bathroom? Or do you go downstairs and make yourself some breakfast? These tasks are called activities of daily living or ADLs. For people with disabilities, especially the elderly, simple tasks such as getting up in the morning or walking down the stairs to make breakfast are harder to accomplish. 

We gain independence by being able to do these daily tasks and activities that help keep us self-sufficient. But what happens if our elderly loved ones fail to carry out these self-care activities? Good thing there is a checklist used in the healthcare system that identifies how much assistance a person needs with their activities of daily living. 

Showing care and consideration for their well-being is one of the best gifts for grandparents. This article will show you how you can use it to help your elderly loved ones with their daily self-care tasks.

What are activities of daily living?

The basic tasks that we accomplish every day to live as autonomous persons, whether in our personal living spaces or in the world at large, are called the activities of daily living or ADLs. 

The exact definition of ADLs may vary, but most healthcare organizations agree that it has six basic categories:

  1. Bathing and showering
  2. Personal hygiene and grooming
  3. Dressing up
  4. Use of the toilet and proper toilet hygiene
  5. Functional mobility, or the ability to walk, move from one location to another, or get in and out of a bed
  6. Self-feeding, or the ability to eat and use cutlery without relying on others

Learning about ADLs and identifying how a person can accomplish these tasks would likewise help recognize whether the person can do it independently or with the assistance of their family or caregiver. 

What are instrumental activities of daily living?

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are quite similar to the very basic activities of daily living but may not be done every day and require higher-level thinking and planning skills. 

The doctor will likely ask if the person is able to do the following, according to the Lawton-Brody Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale: 

  • Use the phone and other communication devices. This includes answering and calling others, responding to emails, and browsing the internet.
  • Purchase meals and groceries on your own.
  • Prepare your own meals according to your meal plan and safely use kitchen utensils.
  • Take your medications properly and refill them as prescribed.
  • General housekeeping and maintaining a neat environment.
  • Travel around by booking a ride or using public transportation.
  • Track finances and manage monthly bills.

Recognizing the instrumental activities of daily living can help dictate whether an elderly or disabled person can independently carry out tasks and how much assistance they need. The IADLs can easily be identified with the mnemonic SHAFT:


  • Shopping
  • Housework or housekeeping
  • Accounting
  • Food preparation
  • Transportation and/or telephone

Why is it important to know ADLs and IADLs?

Identifying whether the person being assessed for ADLs and IADLs can live on their own has a consequential impact on their life’s quality, and failing to point out the activities where they need assistance will only give you more to worry about. Unfulfilled needs for daily living can potentially lead to hygiene neglect, malnutrition, kitchen accidents, isolation, and worst case scenario, they take the wrong dose of prescription medications, or suffering from a fall. The checklist is valuable for specifically gauging a person’s needs and can be useful to avoid any neglect of their well-being. 

Activities of daily living checklist

The activities of daily living (ADLs) checklist is a very helpful tool that effectively determines which ADLs and IADLs your disabled or elderly loved ones require assistance with and the level of function the person has with each activity.


ADL/IADL No assistance needed Some assistance needed Complete assistance needed N/A
Oral care
Climbing stairs
Using the phone
Managing medications
Managing finances

How to give help

Upon proper assessment by healthcare providers, you will be able to determine how you could help your loved one with their specific scores in the checklist. If you wish to assist someone having a difficult time with their ADLs, encourage them to express their needsYou would need to understand that an adult who is not used to asking for help would have a hard time asking for it again after a long time. It is also important to anticipate their needs to avoid asking them too much. The following are helpful general measures to keep in mind when assisting someone with their ADLs and IADLs:

  • Always make eye contact and maintain a calm and patient demeanor and voice when talking to them.
  • Offer simple choices in food and grooming needs.
  • Encourage them to verbalize their needs.
  • Make sure to maintain respectful body language and vocal tone. Do not be condescending and do not treat them like children.
  • Make sure that you allow them to catch up with your movements and speech.
  • Use positive reinforcement to tasks by also giving gifts for your grandparents or loved ones with disabilities that could help with their daily living.


It is very normal and common to feel anxious and worried about your loved ones if you find that they can’t be left alone to do all the things they used to be able to do independently. There are many ways that you can help and assist them by making them feel comfortable and loved, but the best thing that you can do for them is to take them to a specialist doctor to discuss ADLs and IADLs for a way to learn more about their health and safety. 

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