What are Activities of Daily Living?

These are activities that an individual should be able to carry out by themselves on a daily basis in order to be considered an independently functioning person.

There are variations, but mostly lists of activities of daily living (ADLs) include the following items:

  • Bathing and toilet
  • Controlling temperature
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Leisure
  • Mobility
  • Personal care and grooming
  • Shopping

How can Physical and Occupational Therapy Promote Independence?

In the rehabilitation process, the three main types of therapy offered are physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Physical therapy helps patients to re-learn or improve skills needed for independence in ADLs. The therapist creates an individualized exercise program suited to the patient’s needs. For example, if, following an acute illness a patient has difficulty dressing due to weak muscles, the physical therapist will provide strength exercises to build muscles strength. Similarly, if the patient needs to build up walking speed, which is necessary to avoid falls, appropriate exercises will be provided for that purpose.

Read an article about a device to improve a patients walking/gait.

Occupational therapy helps patients to regain the skills that are need to perform all ADLs. In cases where a health condition has reduced a person’s independence, the occupational therapist will try to work on the most important activities of the activities of daily living required for independence for that individual.

Speech therapy might also be a part of the program to facilitate functioning of ADLs; while not essential to some of the ADLs obviously speech facilitates smooth independent functioning. A patient would be have to be  assessed for their speech therapy needs.

Activities of Daily Living and Independence

What constitutes an ADL might vary from person to person depending on the status of their well-being and which activity is challenging for that person. The therapist will help decide which activities to focus on.

In a rehabilitation setting or after short-term rehabilitation when a patient has been released, special equipment and devices can help a person become more independent. Such equipment can also enhance the quality of living and satisfaction in being able to perform activities of daily living.

Activities of daily living - Seniors playing chess outdoors

Vlad Sargu

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