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What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

Activity of Daily Living (or ADL) is a term used by healthcare professionals to refer to the self-care tasks an individual does on a day-to-day basis, including work These activities are fundamental in caring for oneself and maintaining independence. An individual's ability or inability to perform ADLs is often used by Occupational Therapists as a way of measuring an individual’s functional status.

Basic ADLs are self-care activities routinely performed which include (but are not limited to):

  • Functional mobility, which includes the ability to walk and transfer in and out of a chair or bed. Essentially, it's the ability to move from one place to another as a person goes through their daily routines.
  • Personal hygiene, oral care and grooming, including skin and hair care.
  • Showering and/or bathing.
  • Toileting, which includes getting on/off toilet and cleaning oneself.
  • Dressing, which includes selecting appropriate attire and putting it on.
  • Self-feeding.

Occupational therapists try to identify functional difficulties because we want to make sure individuals are getting the help and support they need to compensate for, or overcome, these difficulties.

If you find certain parts of tasks difficult, equipment may be able to help you. For example, if you have difficulty reaching your back or feet to wash, long handled sponges may help. It might be that adaptations to your property could be needed. Adaptations include things like hand rails to help steady yourself in your home or if someone is a wheelchair user then a ramp can help get in and out of your property.

There is a wide range of equipment available to make day to day life easier.

Equipment can help with tasks such as:

  • cutting food,
  • pouring kettles.
  • help turning taps.
  • getting out of the bath.
  • getting up stairs.
  • going to the toilet.
  • help remembering what pills to take and when to take them.

Occupational therapists are experts at identifying the causes of difficulties limiting participation in ADLs, leisure, work and educational pursuits. Their expertise enables them to consider service user needs and environmental factors to develop effective strategies that will maximise quality of life as well as independence in those daily activities that are important and/or necessary to each individual.

Further information regarding equipment that may help you can be found on the Living Made Easy website:

What about work?

Many people with neurological disabilities are in paid employment and there are resources and tips that can help make this easier. Speak to your occupational therapist if you have concerns, sometimes referral to a specific Vocational Rehabilitation service can be helpful. There are also government schemes and charities that can help you:

Access to Work:

020 8426 3110

Ability Net:

0800 269 545