Most seniors are keen on staying in their homes as they age, but family caregivers often struggle to meet their loved ones’ needs and still carve out time for work, family time, hobbies, social engagements and leisure time. Caregivers can become overburdened quickly, and it is crucial to seek out help to keep from getting burned out.

Other family members and friends are frequently recruited for assistance, but these people have busy schedules, too, and are only willing to contribute so much of their time. In-home care is an excellent option, but some families are nervous about inviting a stranger into their home and the one-on-one dynamic isn’t a good fit for every senior. The only other option would appear to be a move to senior living, but there is one type of respite that falls in the middle of the elder care spectrum and allows seniors to stay in their homes: adult day care.

The Benefits of Adult Day Services

Adult day care is a mutually beneficial answer to the notorious respite care conundrum that so many seniors and caregivers face. There are different types of adult day facilities and services that feature activities, staff and equipment designed to fit the various levels of care that seniors require. Attendees can participate and socialize as much or as little as they please and there is ample supervision and care provided by staff.

Oftentimes, an aging parent is still cognitively sharp but their days lack outside interaction and structure, therefore they come to rely on their primary caregiver for all of their socialization. Spending a few days each week at a senior center could give them the opportunity to forge new friendships, engage in hobbies they enjoy and regain some purpose in their life.

Programs typically provide transportation, meals, a quiet area to rest and plenty of supervised activities. Some centers can address the more significant care needs of seniors with dementia, incontinence, diabetes or mobility issues. Typically referred to as adult day health centers (ADHCs), these facilities offer additional services like health monitoring, physical therapy, added security to prevent wandering, toileting assistance and even bathing. Most ADHCs have a nurse on call or on the premises to administer medications as well.

For caregivers who need some downtime or must return to work, adult day services can be a lifesaver. Leaving aging loved ones home alone to sit in front of the television often leads to feelings of guilt and worry. If a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, then staying home alone is usually out of the question. Adult day care can provide the assistance and peace of mind that caregivers need while enriching their loved ones’ lives and allowing them to continue living at home in the community.

Getting a Senior to Go to Adult Day Care

Seniors often push back against change, especially when there is ANY indication that it will affect their independence. For those caring for loved ones who still have their mental faculties, a frank and logical discussion may be enough to convince them to give adult day services a try. Let them know that you need to go to work, family functions and your own doctor’s appointments without feeling guilty or distracted because you’re worried about their wellbeing. Tell them that adult day care essentially offers many of the benefits of assisted living without the move and the hefty price tag. Frame it as a compromise. If they’re still reluctant, ask them to at least agree to a trial run and then you both can revisit the issue. They may find they really enjoy their time at the center.

Of course, attempting a compromise with a loved one who is cognitively impaired can be difficult if not impossible. In this case, a little white lie may be necessary to get them to entertain the idea of going to an adult day center. Many caregivers have gotten their loved ones to agree by referring to the day center as “the club” or characterizing the activities they engage in as “volunteer work.” Each person living with dementia is different, but try to frame this type of care as something they would find interesting and rewarding.

Regardless of whether a loved one is cognitively impaired, it’s important to consider your wording carefully before having this discussion. Although it is officially referred to as adult day care, I try to avoid using this term with elders because of its connotation to childcare. I am a proponent of treating elders with dignity, no matter how “childlike” they may become, so I prefer more respectful and dignified terms like “day services,” “the senior center,” etc.

Finding a Good Adult Day Care Center

Variable terminology aside, adult day services have been a well-kept secret for years. Far too many people don’t realize they have this care option. Keep in mind that, like most types of elder care, one type or provider is not suitable for everyone. One center may be perfect for some elders but it may be a terrible fit for your loved one. This doesn’t necessarily mean that adult day care isn’t a good idea or that this one provider is “bad.”

Carefully assessing your loved one’s needs and researching day programs in your area will help you find a good fit. Visit the locations and speak with the staff about the services they provide. Go at different times of day to see how things look and get a feel for the atmosphere. And, as always, check references. If your elder adjusts well, you’ll have found one more care option to help you during your caregiving journey.