3 Types of Adult Day Care

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If your loved one lives with you, but you need help that will allow you to go to work and engage in other activities, then adult day care might be the solution for you.

Adult day care centers are designed for older individuals who need help with activities of daily living or who are isolated and lonely. At the centers, seniors are able to socialize with others while receiving assistance and supervision. It’s especially beneficial for those who can no longer structure their own daily activities, desire social interaction or can’t be safely left alone at home. At the same time, the centers give caregivers a break from around-the-clock care and provide peace of mind that their loved one is in good hands. There are varying levels of adult day care that cater to seniors’ specific needs.

Three Adult Day Care Options

1. Social Day Care

These facilities focus on enriching seniors’ lives through an engaging social community and activities that build upon each individual’s skills, knowledge and unique abilities.

Daily activities usually include:

  • Creative expression through arts and crafts
  • Musical entertainment and group sing-a-longs
  • Mental stimulation games like bingo
  • Stretching and gentle exercise like chair yoga
  • Discussion groups about books, films or current events
  • Holiday and birthday celebrations
  • Local outings
  • Nutritious meals and snacks

Besides recreational activities, some programs provide transportation to and from the center, social services like counseling and support groups for caregivers, and health support services such as blood pressure monitoring and vision screening.

2. Adult Day Health Care

These facilities typically use the term Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) because they provide medical services and physical, occupational, and speech therapy to seniors. They are usually staffed with an RN and other health professionals. It is common practice for the program to require a health assessment by a physician prior to admission.

ADH centers provide frail adults experiencing physical, mental or social problems associated with stroke, isolation, confusion or other conditions with the opportunity to meet new people, participate in activities and enjoy daily life in a comfortable, supervised setting.

Joint Medicare and Medicaid participants may be eligible to receive ADHC from a local Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). These programs serve individuals who are 55 or older, certified by their state as needing nursing home level care, able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment and living in a PACE service area. While all PACE participants must be certified to need nursing home care to enroll, 93 percent live in the community and get their daily care at a PACE adult day health care center.

Delivering all needed medical and supportive services, a PACE program provides the entire continuum of care and services to seniors with chronic care needs while maintaining their independence in their homes for as long as possible.

3. Alzheimer’s and Dementia Day Care

These programs provide social and health services specifically for seniors with cognitive challenges. In this setting, activities appropriate for the participants’ functional abilities are provided in a secure environment to prevent wandering, and the staff has specialized training in dementia care.

How to Select a Care Center

First, start by considering the needs of your loved one. Are social activities important to them? Do they need assistance with walking, eating or taking medications? Is mental stimulation a priority? What are their exercise needs?

It is important to consider your own needs as well. Are you looking for general support? Some free time? Help with transportation? These questions will help you determine which of the three main types of adult day care centers (social, health-focused or specialized Alzheimer’s/dementia care) will be the best fit.

Contact the day center(s) you are interested in to discuss the programs they offer. The National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) suggests asking the following questions to get a feel for each organization:

  • Who is the owner or sponsor of the adult day care center?
  • How long has the center been in operation?
  • Does it meet all necessary county or state licensing requirements?
  • What are the days and hours of operation?
  • Is transportation to and from the center provided?
  • Which medical conditions are accepted? For instance, will the program accommodate memory loss, limited mobility or incontinence?
  • What are the staff’s credentials?
  • What is the ratio of staff to participants?
  • What activities are offered? Are there a variety of individual and group programs?
  • Are meals and snacks provided? Are special diets accommodated?

Be sure to visit the centers in person to observe the social atmosphere, environment and staff interactions with the participants. Check references and talk to other seniors and families who use the facility. Multiple visits on different days will give you a good idea of how the programs and center function.

Download The Adult Day Care Checklist to ensure you do not overlook any of this important criteria.

Adult day care centers can be public or private, non-profit or for-profit. The average national cost is about $64 per day, depending on where you live, and the level of services provided (e.g. meals, transportation). Professional health care services will require higher fees. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to inquire about financial assistance and possible “scholarships.”

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Sandy Morris was married for 32 years and was her disabled husband's caregiver for the last 15 years of their marriage. Working in the senior services sector for the last three years, her experiences on both sides of the caregiver equation allow her to provide valuable information on everything from VA benefits to common caregiver challenges.

War Veterans Association of Colorado

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Thanks Sandy. Very helpful overview!