The phrase "activities of daily living," or ADLs, is used in reference to those people who are elderly, injured or disabled, mentally ill, chronically ill, or who otherwise may potentially be unable to care for themselves. The activities of daily living include items such as feeding oneself, bathing, practicing personal hygiene, and the ability to move around one's home, just to name a few. An occupational therapist may evaluate an individual to determine whether he or she is capable of performing these activities, or needs occupational therapy or living assistance.
Primarily, activities of daily living include all of the activities that must be done on a daily basis. This includes the ability to get out of bed in the morning without assistance, get undressed and wash up, get dressed for the day, eat food throughout the day, and at least walk to a chair to sit down. In addition, it includes the ability to control one's biological bodily functions. These are the most basic activities of daily living, as well as the most important, and it is the job of the occupational therapist to determine if these activities are possible based on a variety of medical factors.
Other activities of daily living that are not necessary to physically survive, but are necessary to live on one's own, include the ability to go shopping for groceries and prepare meals, clean up around the house, take medications as scheduled, manage one's money, and the ability to use the telephone to call for help if necessary. These are just a few of the activities of daily living that determine whether someone may remain living alone, or should choose to live in an assisted living facility, where meals will be prepared, housework will be done, and help is available on-site. Many people often find that an assisted living facility is an acceptable and safe compromise, rather than living on one's own vs. being confined to a nursing home.
Many people simply work with an occupational therapist to regain the ability to live independently, such as following an injury or illness such as a stroke. An occupational therapist can continually evaluate a patient to determine whether it is safe for him or her to live independently, or he should be placed in an assisted living facility, either over the short term or the long term. Patients who are unable to perform most or all of the basic activities of daily living may need to be placed in a nursing home, for more thorough, specialized care.