Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Issue #2 of General Assessment Series

WHY: Age-related changes and health problems frequently show themselves as declines in the functional status of older adults. Decline may place the older adult on a spiral of iatrogenesis leading to further health problems. One of the best ways to evaluate the health status of older adults is through functional assessment, which provides objective data that may indicate future decline or improvement in health status, allowing the nurse to plan and intervene appropriately.

BEST TOOL: The Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living, commonly referred to as the Katz ADL, is the most appropriate instrument to assess functional status as a measurement of the client’s ability to perform activities of daily living independently. Clinicians typically use the tool to assess function and detect problems in performing activities of daily living and to plan care accordingly. The Index ranks adequacy of performance in the six functions of bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, continence, and feeding. Clients are scored yes/no for independence in each of the six functions. A score of 6 indicates full function, 4 indicates moderate impairment, and 2 or less indicates severe functional impairment.

TARGET POPULATION: The instrument is used effectively among older adults in the community and all care settings.  The tool is most useful when baseline measurements are taken when the client is well and compared to periodic or subsequent measures.

VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY: The Katz tool was originally developed in the late 1950s, it has been modified and simplified and different approaches to scoring have been used. However, it has consistently demonstrated its utility in evaluating functional status in the elderly population. Although no formal reliability and validity reports could be found in the literature, the tool is used extensively as a flag signaling functional capabilities of older adults in clinical and home environments.

STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: The Katz ADL Index assesses basic activities of daily living. It does not assess more advanced activities of daily living. Katz developed another scale for instrumental activities of daily living such as heavy housework, shopping, managing finances and telephoning. Although the Katz ADL Index is sensitive to changes in declining health status, it is limited in its ability to measure small increments of change seen in the rehabilitation of older adults. A full comprehensive geriatric assessment should follow when appropriate. The Katz ADL Index is very useful in creating a common language about patient function for all practitioners involved in overall care planning and discharge planning.


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Greenberg, S.A., & McCabe, D. (2018) Functional assessment of older adults. In T. Fulmer, & B. Chernof (Eds.). Handbook of geriatric assessment (5th ed.,  pp. 231-239). MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Hartigan, I. (2007). A comparative review of the Katz ADL and the Barthel Index in assessing the activities of daily living of older people. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2(3), 204-212.

Katz, S. (1983). Assessing self-maintenance: Activities of daily living, mobility and instrumental activities of daily living. JAGS, 31(12), 721-726. Katz, S., Down, T.D., Cash, H.R., & Grotz, R.C. (1970) Progress in the development of the index of ADL.  The Gerontologist, 10(1), 20-30.

Katz, S., Ford, A.B., Moskowitz, R.W., Jackson, B.A., & Jaffe, M.W. (1963). Studies of illness in the aged: The Index of ADL: A standardized measure of biological and psychosocial function. JAMA, 185(12), 914-919.

Kresevic, D.M. (2016). Assessment of physical function. In M. Boltz, E. Capezuti, T.T. Fulmer, & D. Zwicker (Eds.), A. O’Meara (Managing Ed.), Evidence-based geriatric nursing protocols for best practice (6th ed., pp 89-103). NY: Springer Publishing Company, LLC. 

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