What is adult day care and how does it help caregivers?

No matter how efficiently and effortlessly you have adapted your life to the role of caregiver, eventually you are going to need a break. Occasional breaks are essential not only to your emotional well-being, but to the well-being of your relationships with your family, friends, and the person you are caring for. Taking an occasional break is also essential to maintaining your capability as a caregiver. For some caregivers a nearby family member can step in and provide the care, but for other caregivers that option is not available. In these cases, adult day care is an option.

Adult day care provides daily structured programs in a community setting with activities and health-related and rehabilitation services to older adults who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a protective environment. Many centers provide services to clients with a broad range of conditions and disorders, while others specialize in particular disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Care is provided during daytime hours, and the individual returns home for the night. These centers not only enable older people to live at home, thus maintaining a degree of independence, but they are also beneficial to a primary caregiver in need of respite from the every day responsibilities of looking after a loved one. Many adult day care programs also provide transportation to and from the center.

Adult day care is offered at a special purpose facility or as a service at another type of care facility such as a nursing home or assisted living residence.

What services do adult day care centers offer?

Services usually include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Meals and social activities (such as crafts, music, movies, community projects, intergenerational programs)
  • Transportation, fellowship, support, and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, and grooming
  • Medically-related services provided by health care professionals, including registered nurses and therapists. General and social activities provided by other staff workers. Social work services may also be provided.

Adult day care also provides opportunities for education, as well as taking into consideration the older adults’ favorite hobbies, interests, and needs.

What are the steps in finding and choosing an adult day care center?

When deciding to investigate adult day care options, the first step is to locate centers in your area. Local churches or a senior center generally can provide information on adult day care centers. In addition, some assisted living and nursing home facilities offer adult day care services.

Once the area centers have been located, call the centers and ask them to contact you with information about the center, such as eligibility requirements, sample menus, activity calendars, and the application process. Once you have received the information, other things to look for include:

  • How long the center has been in operation
  • Who owns or sponsors the center
  • Hours of operation
  • Days of operation
  • Whether or not they offer transportation to and from the center

Once you have looked over the information, the next step is for the caregiver, along with the person being cared for, to visit and tour the center. Observations and questions that can be made or asked include:

  • Is the staff friendly?
  • What is the daily cost?
  • Ask to see sample menus that span over a period of several weeks.
  • Is the center clean and odor free?
  • What is expected of the caregiver?
  • Is there a place to isolate sick persons?
  • What are the credentials of the staff?
  • Is the facility wheelchair-accessible?
  • Do volunteers help out?
  • What is the staff-to-client ratio? (Six clients per staff member is a good ratio).
  • May you have a list of references?

If you live in a state that licenses adult day care centers, be sure to verify that the center’s license is current.

The cost of adult day care varies from facility to facility. The national average (as of 2017) is $60-$65 per day. Non-profit centers and centers funded by corporations or religious organizations are less expensive than private facilities. If medical services such as physical or speech therapy are provided, Medicare, Medicaid or veterans’ benefits may cover part of the costs.