When you apply for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may look at how your impairment impacts your “activities of daily living,” or ADLs. The SSA wants to know what you can and cannot do in any given day in order to make a decision about the severity of your impairment.
The SSA wants to know the following about your daily activities:
- What you do from the time you wake up until going to bed.
- Whether you drive.
- What household chores are you able to do.
- Whether you prepare your own meals.
- What your hobbies and interests are.
- How your medical condition affects your ability to dress, bathe, shave, feed yourself, and use the toilet.
- Whether your medical condition affects your sleep.
- How your medical condition limits your ability to work.
This information about your activities of daily living will help the SSA see how your impairment affects your everyday life. ADLs are important for many different impairments, and are especially important with mental disorders. ADLs include things like shopping, cooking, getting around (either by public transportation or by driving yourself), cooking, paying bills, being able to take care of your personal hygiene, and so on. The SSA will look at whether your impairment makes you unable to do some of these things at all, or to do some of them in a limited manner.
For these reasons, it's important to be detailed on the ADL questionnaire that the SSA will give you. When you’re answering the questions about what you do in a typical day, don’t just put “nothing.” Explain what time you get out of bed, or if you don’t get out of bed at all. If you sit in one place all day, explain that. For more information, see our article on the ADL form.