The ability of an individual to provide self-care or function independently s often referred to by the phrase “activities of daily living.” This phrase is often used to describe physical functioning, or those functions an individual performs daily for his or her own safety and health maintenance. In the early 1960s, Katz et al. described the six areas that are considered the functions essential to physically care for oneself.
They are typically listed in the order in which functions are lost due to physical illness or dementia: bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, continence, and feeding. Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) are functions that are essential for independent living. IADL involve the ability to plan, organize, maintain a dwelling, and manage the condition of oneself or others. Several activities may be considered, including meal preparation, doing laundry, providing for a clean living space, paying bills and managing business affairs, taking medications as recommended, telephoning, scheduling appointments, arranging transportation or driving, traveling to both familiar and unfamiliar locations, shopping for groceries, remembering to refill prescriptions, and remembering holidays and scheduled events. Some of these activities may be culturally bound, or gender specific.
For example, if the husband always handled the finances, a woman who finds herself suddenly widowed may be unable to carry out these activities simply because she never learned how. In evaluating both activities of daily living and IADL, the focus is the ability to care for oneself. When this is not possible, some assistance may be required.