What does a senior do at an adult day center all day?

This is the question many caregivers ask when seeking respite care for their elderly loved ones.

There's no denying the stigma that adult day care carries, and many centers are working hard to turn traditional views, like "glorified adult babysitting," on their heads.

For example, Helen, an 82 year-old retired nurse feels that her decision to attend an adult day center was a good one. Since she began attending the Hope Adult Day Center in Ft. Myers, Florida, she feels that her quality of life has increased 100 percent due to their holistic approach to care.

She mentions that, in addition to assisting her with health care, the center's staff helps her in a variety of other ways. She says that they enabled her gain access to large-print library books so she could read more easily, and they gave her a mini Christmas tree during the holidays.

According to Helen it's the personalized, comprehensive approach to care that she appreciates most. "There's no aspect of my life they haven't touched," she says.

A day-in-the-life

Each care center is different, so, to get a better idea of what goes on after a senior is dropped off at the door, AgingCare visited the Hope center in Ft. Myers. Here's what we learned about what a typical day might look like from the perspective of your elderly loved one:

8:15 am: You arrive at the center. Most facilities open around eight or nine in the morning and offer alternate forms of transportation for seniors who cannot drive themselves or don't have someone to drop them off.

8:30 am: Drop off your cane in the "parking lot" and have breakfast. Hope has a designated space for walkers and canes that are not needed by guests once they are in the facility. Day centers generally offer a variety of food options and some, like Hope, have nutritionists that will work with you to design meals and snacks that follow a senior's dietary restrictions.

9:00 am: You kick back and catch up on current events. Every day, a Hope worker will read pertinent newspaper articles out loud for those seniors who can't, or do not want to read the newspaper on their own.

10:00 am: Get your sweat on. Daily exercise classes have become staples at most centers. Classes are often offered at different times throughout the day so that guests (also called ‘participants' in Hope centers) can choose when they want to work out.

11:00 am: Take time to enjoy the great outdoors. Centers in climates that are conducive to outdoor activities generally have decks or grounds where people can relax and enjoy nature. Hope offers a portion of their outdoor patio to seniors who wish to garden.

11:45 am: Eat lunch with your Wii bowling partner. Tech-savvy centers are beginning to expand their activities offerings to include things like video games.

12:30 pm: Go to physical therapy for your shoulder. Some centers, like Hope, offer physical and occupational therapy services helping a senior recover from injury or surgery and allowing them to cultivate daily living skills that may help them remain independent.

2:00 pm: Feeling limber after your appointment, you bowl a 245 in your game.

2:30 pm: You have a snack and chat with one of the nurses. Relationships between seniors and care staff are encouraged in most centers. Getting to know participants on an individual level is thought to be integral to providing higher quality care.

3:00 pm: You decide to seek the sanctuary in the center's quiet room. The hustle and bustle of a busy center can sometimes be too much for a senior. Quiet areas are generally set aside to act as refuges for those who are not feeling well, or who just want some peace and quiet.

4:00 pm: Meet with the physician to get your prescription tweaked. Hope participates in PACE, a program that helps coordinate the core aspects of a senior's care, including medication management, to help them live on their own as long as possible.

4:45 pm: Retrieve your cane—you barely even missed it—and head out to the bus.

This is just a hypothetical scenario, of course, and many centers vary their activities day to day. Most modern centers also put an emphasis on allowing seniors a great deal of freedom when it comes to choosing what they want to do.