Learning About Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

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What are instrumental activities of daily living?

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are things you do every day to take care of yourself and your home. They are not basic self-care tasks, such as eating or bathing. IADLs require more complex planning and thinking.

Some examples of IADLs are:

  • Using the phone. This includes answering and calling others.
  • Shopping for groceries.
  • Planning and making your meals.
  • Managing your medicines. This includes refilling them when needed and taking them correctly.
  • Cleaning your home.
  • Getting around, either by car, taxi, or public transportation.
  • Managing money and paying bills.

Sometimes aging and health problems make it hard to do complex tasks. If you are having trouble with tasks, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ideas that may help.

To measure what kind of help you may need, your doctor will ask how well you are able to do IADLs. Tell your doctor about any tasks that you are having trouble doing. This is an important first step to getting help. And when you have the help you need, you can stay as independent as possible.

How will a doctor assess your IADLs?

Asking about IADLs is part of a routine health checkup your doctor will likely do as you age. Your health check might be done in a doctor's office, in your home, or at a hospital. The goal is to find out if you are having trouble with IADLs and to find new ways for you to do these tasks, if needed. This may include getting help with tasks you can no longer do.

For example, to measure your IADLs, your doctor may ask:

  • How do you make yourself meals?
  • When you need to take medicines, do you take them by yourself? Or do you have help?
  • How do you get to the store?
  • Do you pay your own bills?

It's common to feel a little worried or anxious if you find you can't do all the things you used to be able to do. Talking with your doctor about IADLs is a way to make sure you're as safe as possible and able to care for yourself as well as you can. You may want to bring a caregiver, friend, or family member to your checkup. They can help you talk to your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.