A Pocket Guide: Activities of Daily Living

You may not think much of it, but the activities you perform on a daily basis play an essential role in whether or not your disability benefits are granted or denied by the Social Security Administration. The term for this is simply activities of daily living, also referred to as ADL. Below, we explain what activities are considered ADL and how your self-sufficiency can help determine whether you qualify disability benefits.

What Are Activities of Daily Living?

To put it generally, activities of daily living (ADLs) are any activities you perform on a regular basis that get you through each day – essentially, any basic tasks that allow an individual to live day-to-day. This can include anything from showering and washing your hands to the way you feed yourself.

Common ADLs include the following:

  • Ambuating – One’s ability to change body positions and walk independently
  • Continence – One’s physical and mental ability to use the restroom on their own
  • Dressing – One’s ability to select appropriate clothing for various occasions and weather conditions
  • Feeding – One’s ability to properly feed themselves
  • Hygiene – Showering or bathing, basic grooming, oral care, nail and hair maintenance

There are also instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which are slightly more complex but still reflect your ability to live independently and without aid.

Common IADLs include:

  • Communication – One’s ability to communicate with others via phone calls, email or otherwise; general responsiveness
  • Finances – One’s ability to manage finances and pay bills on time
  • Household chores – One’s ability to clean, tidy, remove trash, handle laundry and other essential household tasks
  • Medication management – One’s ability to keep prescriptions filled, organized and take them on time/in the correct dosages
  • Preparing meals – One’s ability to plan, shop for, prepare, cook, and store groceries
  • Transportation and shopping – One’s ability to run errands, such as grocery and pharmacy trips, without help

How Do ADLs Affect My Disability?

When you apply for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review whether or not you are medically able to work. Limitations or difficulties with activities of daily living can be used as proof to show the extent of your inability to work. It is very important that you discuss any problems with ADLs with your doctors, counselors and other medical professionals.

If there are ADLs that cause you pain, discomfort or that you simply can’t do, be sure to include these with your application. Even something minor may help contribute to your ability to receive benefits. You will receive a questionnaire at some point during your application process, containing a variety of questions regarding what you are capable of in your daily life.

ADL Questionnaire & Follow-Up

The ADL questionnaire, known by the SSA as Form SSA-3373-BK, is specifically designed to gauge how a medical condition or impairment affects one’s behavior day-to-day. This form incorporates both mental and physical impairments, since both can have an impact on a person’s ability to manage daily life.

Be sure to sit down with your Social Security disability attorney when reviewing and filling out the ADL questionnaire. Though it may seem straightforward, the way questions are worded can be misconstrued and end up resulting in a claim denial if not filled out honestly and correctly.

Additionally, the SSA may reach out to relatives, friends or even past employers to gain information about your ability to perform necessary ADLs, so it’s important to be prepared for these calls.

Contact the Disability Attorneys at Woodruff & Mathis

Activities of daily living can play a huge role in the approval of your disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If you have questions about ADLs or how to approach the questionnaire, please request an appointment with our attorneys today.