Adult day care provides caregivers with much-needed respite, giving them a break to run errands, spend time with family or just get away from the stress of caregiving. But when a parent has Alzheimer's disease, caregivers tend to be more reluctant to leave their elderly parent at an adult day care.

However, there are adult day care centers that specialize in caring for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, with dementia-tailored activities and staff who are specially trained in the disease.

Adult day care can be another form of respite care. People with dementia most often attend these programs during the day and return home in the evening.

Is Adult Day Care Right for Your Parent?

How does a caregiver who has an elderly parent with Alzheimer's or dementia know if they should consider adult day care? Consider the questions below.

  • Does the elderly parent with dementia seem unable to provide any structure for their daily activities?
  • Is the elderly parent isolated from others for more than an hour or two each day and misses companionship?
  • Can the elderly parent with Alzheimer's or dementia be safely left at home alone?
  • Does the caregiver work outside the home or need a regular break?

Benefits of Adult Day Services

Alzheimer's day care centers offer a host of benefits for caregivers and their elderly parents. First and foremost they provide a safe environment for the elder, with safety features in place to handle wandering and other behaviors that are common among Alzheimer's and dementia patients. The staff is trained to pay attention and look for signs of trouble or dangerous behaviors in elders.

Daily activities, exercise and socialization are tailored to elders with Alzheimer's or dementia. Most adult day care centers serve meals throughout the day.

These programs may be available at senior centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. A day care program may provide such activities as crafts, music and exercise. Some programs include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

In addition, adult day staff provides assistance with personal care and toileting, as well as coordinated care between physicians, families and other care providers.

Hours and Costs of Adult Day Programs

Programs run from several hours to a full day. Participants may attend daily, a few times a week, weekly, or just for special activities. Weekend and evening care are less common, although this is changing as demand for adult daycare rises. (All options vary.)

Most adult day care services charge by the hour, while others charge a monthly rate. Daily fees average about $56, according to the National Adult Day Services Association. Some adult day care centers charge an additional fee for transportation, while some offer it free.

Costs vary depending on geographic location, the type of program the caregiver chooses, and how many hours the elderly parent uses it. Most programs are nonprofits, which may cost less than for-profit programs. Caregivers should ask if a center offers a sliding scale of fees based on income.

Unfortunately, most insurance plans don't cover these costs. Elders or their family members must pay all costs not covered by insurance

Does Medicare Cover Adult Day Care?

Adult day care may be paid for completely or in part by Medicaid, long-term care insurance or veterans benefits. Medicare will not usually cover adult day care services, but certain combinations of programs may help defray costs.

State Medicaid programs may pay for health care that is provided in state-licensed facilities, including therapy services, mental health services, administration of medications, psychological evaluations, dressing of wounds, and assistance with feeding, according to

Most often, people pay out of their own pockets for these programs. Ask if a ''sliding scale'' of fees is available, which means that the amount that participants pay is based on their income.

More Information on Adult Day Care

To find an adult day care center near you, visit the Adult Day Care Directory.

To find out more about the specific adult day care centers where you live, contact your local area agency on aging (AAA).

The National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) is another good source of information. It can be reached by calling the toll-free telephone number 1-877-745-1440 or visiting their website.