IADL stands for "Instrumental Activities of Daily Life." Unlike ADLs, which are activities necessary for survival, IADLs are the activities that humans need to perform to function in modern society. Lists of IADLs vary, but often include the following:

  1. using the telephone
  2. getting to places beyond walking distance (whether by bus or car or other means of transportation)
  3. grocery shopping
  4. preparing meals
  5. doing housework or handyman work
  6. doing laundry
  7. managing money

It's worth noting that most lists of IADLs suffer from a bit of gender bias. Many older males don't do laundry, prepare meals, go to the grocery, or do housework (likewise, many older females don't do handyman work). Thus, an elderly male might have trouble with these tasks simply because his wife always performed them--which is fine unless his wife dies or contracts a serious illness. In this case, it's obviously best simply to teach the person how to do the task in question.

This exception aside, most patients who cannot complete an IADL need some help from a family member, friend, or caretaker; they generally do not need to be institutionalized.