Adult day care provides caregivers with much-needed respite, giving them a break to work, run errands, spend time with family or just take a moment to decompress. But when Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is a factor in this equation, caregivers tend to be more nervous about their aging loved ones’ ability to attend an adult day center. Fortunately, there are adult day care programs that provide specialized services for seniors with cognitive impairment.

Benefits of Adult Day Services

Specialized adult day care centers offer a host of benefits for both attendees with dementia and their family caregivers.

Safety and Security

First and foremost, these centers provide close supervision and a safe, enriching environment for seniors to go to during the day. Many dementia patients are unable to be left home alone due to wandering, forgetfulness and other potentially dangerous behavioral symptoms. This puts family caregivers in a difficult position, especially if outside help is scarce and/or they’re still working. Dementia programs at adult day centers typically utilize security features to prevent wandering as well as improved staffing ratios to ensure seniors are safe and their needs are met in a timely manner. This provides invaluable free time and peace of mind for dementia caregivers.

Stimulating Activities and Social Opportunities

Seniors in the middle and later stages of dementia often require prompting and supervision to begin and work through even the most basic household chores and recreational activities. However, this difficulty doesn’t prevent seniors from wanting to be active or feel useful. Adult day centers provide an array of activities for attendees to participate in, many of which can be adapted to each person’s unique abilities to maximize enjoyment and minimize frustration. Common offerings include arts and crafts, movie viewings, board and card games, music therapy, exercise programs, reminiscence discussions, cooking, volunteer projects and much more. Many centers also host themed social events and holiday celebrations.

Additional Personal Hygiene and Health Care Services

Depending on the level of care a day center provides, staff may be able to assist with personal care and activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, toileting and incontinence care. Some centers also provide health services, like medication management, preventative health screenings, occupational and physical therapy, as well as help coordinating care between physicians, family members and other care providers. Keep in mind, though, that even the highest levels of adult day care are not intended for individuals who require around-the-clock care. There is a point in time where a senior’s needs will exceed what adult day care can provide.

Transportation to and from the center may be available as well, possibly for an additional cost. Most adult day services also provide nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day.

Respite Care

One of the biggest advantages adult day care provides to caregivers is respite. Adult day services allow family caregivers to spend time away from their care recipients without worrying about their safety or mental health. The vast majority of caregivers do not have enough time, energy or outside help to continue working, devote time to their families, or see to their own physical and mental health.

Most think they must choose between having a life of their own and continuing to care for their aging loved ones at home, but adult day care helps to bridge this gap. Adult day services enable family caregivers to see to their own needs while their loved ones receive quality care. Utilizing these services can even minimize caregiver burden and delay a senior’s placement in a long-term care facility.

Determining if a Senior Might Benefit from Adult Day Services

Finding elder care solutions for a loved one with dementia is an especially challenging process. Each dementia patient is different and each community’s respite care options and supportive services vary greatly. So, how does a caregiver know if they should consider adult day care for their loved one? There are a few factors that can influence this decision.

First, it’s important to take a senior’s personality into consideration. Have they led a generally active and social life? Do they seem bored, indifferent or directionless lately? Depression and social isolation are common in seniors with dementia. It becomes increasingly difficult for them to communicate with other people and engage in activities they once loved. Reintroducing new and adapted opportunities to fulfill these basic human needs can have a transformative effect on a senior’s mood.

On the other hand, some seniors enjoy their quiet time and solitude. The hustle and bustle of adult day care isn’t necessarily a perfect fit for everyone. For example, an outgoing and energetic senior may benefit from attending a day center for a few hours each weekday, whereas a more introverted and lowkey individual can benefit from the same services but only one day a week.

The individual day care providers available in your community will influence this decision as well. Bigger cities with larger populations of seniors tend to offer a wider variety of respite care options compared to smaller towns and rural areas. While dementia is increasingly common, specialized programs may be difficult to find in some places. This may not be a problem during the mild stages of the disease, but as a senior’s condition progresses and their behavioral symptoms and confusion worsen, it becomes increasingly important that adult day care staff are trained in dementia care techniques.

Adjusting to Adult Day Services

It’s important to understand that there will probably be an initial adjustment period for dementia patients when they first begin attending adult day services. Change is difficult to accept, and your loved one may push back against this idea, but most seniors with cognitive decline thrive when they are engaged and have a set routine to follow. It can take some time for new attendees to get comfortable with their new surroundings, peers and staff, but the benefits of adult day care are well worth it. Many seniors come to enjoy getting out of the house and interacting with new people. It gives them something to do and look forward to, often creating a renewed sense of purpose in their everyday life.

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Hours and Costs of Adult Day Programs

Most centers also allow flexible scheduling to meet caregivers’ schedules and dementia patients’ fluctuating moods and needs. Participants can choose to attend for a few hours or an entire day. Seniors may attend daily, a few times a week, weekly, or just for special events or activities. Weekend and evening care are less common, but this is changing as the demand for adult daycare for dementia patients increases.

Most adult day care providers charge by the hour, but some charge a monthly rate. According to the National Adult Day Services Association, the average daily fee based on an eight- or 10-hour day is $61. Costs vary depending on geographic location, the type of program and services chosen, and how many hours the senior plans to attend. Most programs are nonprofit organizations, which may cost less than for-profit programs. Caregivers should ask if a center offers a sliding scale of fees that are based on a senior’s income and ability to pay.

Does Medicare Cover Adult Day Care?

Unfortunately, most insurance plans don’t cover these costs, so elders or their family members must pay for them out of pocket. Adult day care may be paid for completely or in part by Medicaid, long-term care insurance or veterans benefits. Medicare alone does not cover these services, but seniors who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid may qualify for adult day care and additional services through the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

Read: PACE Programs Provide Comprehensive Care for Seniors Who Need It Most