Adult day programs provide services and companionship for seniors who are not ready or able to join an assisted living community or to hire a home health aide. Adult Day Care Centers are ideal for sons and daughters who provide caregiving services to parents during the evening and weekends, but need someone to care for their parents during the day. They are also an excellent source of respite care for family members who need a break from their caregiving duties.
Some adult day programs are affiliated with churches or synagogues. Others are located in, or adjacent to, a hospital or nursing home. Many operate as stand-alone businesses, unaffiliated with any other entity.
Adult Day Care Centers generally fall into one of two categories: those that primarily provide social care and those that provide a higher level of health care. Both kinds of day programs give seniors a chance to interact with others of a similar age.
Adult Social Day Care
Adult social day care programs emphasize opportunities for seniors to participate in a variety of social and recreational activities in a group setting. Seniors might be offered the chance to participate in card or board games, to pursue arts and crafts, to attend mild exercise or stretching classes, to join discussion groups, and to engage in other age-appropriate activities that stimulate the mind and body.
Programs that focus on adult social day care usually prepare meals and snacks during the day. They typically provide some health-related services, such as monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but they are not intended for seniors who need intense medical supervision. Adult Social Day Care Centers usually assist seniors with some of their activities of daily living, such as eating, but their primary objective is to provide a social setting for seniors whose family members do not want to leave them alone during the day.
Adult Day Health Care
Programs that provide adult day health care serve seniors with more serious health conditions, including those who are at risk of needing nursing home care. In addition to providing meals and social programs, an Adult Day Health Care Center will typically provide regular monitoring of health status, assistance with medications, counseling for physical and mental health issues, and physical therapy or rehabilitation. The services provided in an adult day health care program may slow the deterioration of mental and physical conditions and delay the need for a senior’s placement in a nursing home.
Adult Day Health Care Centers usually require a senior to be assessed by a physician before the senior is admitted to the program. Some centers provide specialized services for seniors who suffer from dementia or who need care for traumatic brain injuries. Many have clinical or geriatric social workers on staff who are trained to address less serious mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Adult Day Care Staffing
Adult Social Day Care Centers typically have an activity director and a number of assistants who supervise group activities. They will also have assistants who are trained to assist seniors with their activities of daily living. The recommended staff-to-senior ratio is one staff member for each program participant.
Adult Day Health Care Centers maintain a staff of registered nurses or licensed practical nurses. They work under the supervision of a physician, although the physician will not usually be on-site. Adult day health programs usually employ a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and/or speech therapist to help seniors who need rehabilitative services, as well as social workers who monitor changes in a senior’s mental health status.
Choosing an Adult Day Care Center
Family members should first decide whether an elder needs the health services provided by an adult day health care program or whether a social day care program will be sufficient. The elder’s doctor or social worker can provide advice to guide that decision.
Family members should then compare locations, services provided, hours of operation, the staff-to-participant ratio, and costs. In addition to comparing social and exercise activities offered by each program, family members should determine whether the program can provide necessary assistance with an elder’s activities of daily living (such as walking or using the toilet).
Family Members should visit the location to make sure it is clean and that it offers seniors a safe and secure environment. The National Adult Day Services Association has a convenient checklist that can help family members and elders ask meaningful questions when visiting an Adult Day Care Center.
Tip: If your elderly family member needs a special diet, make sure that the center you are considering is able to accommodate that need.
Not all states license or inspect Adult Day Care Centers. If inspection records are available from a licensing authority in your state, they may provide valuable information about the quality of care delivered by different programs.
Talking to people whose parents attend a program can also provide insight into the quality of care the program delivers. Family members might also want to enroll their loved one on a trial basis to be sure the program is a good fit for the him or her before deciding whether to use the program on an ongoing basis.
The Eldercare Locator, administered by the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living, , is a useful internet resource to help you find adult day programs in your area. You can also search for centers within 20 miles of your home on the website of the National Adult Day Services Association.
Cost of Adult Day Programs
The 2021 national average hourly rate for adult day care services is $78. Costs are influenced by the program’s geographic location and the number of services it provides. Adult day health care is more expensive than adult social day care. Some institutions operate nonprofit centers at lower costs, although they generally limit their services to financially needy seniors.
A parent who has long-term care insurance may be able to use insurance benefits to pay for an adult day care program. Medicare will not typically cover adult day care services. Other programs, such as Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, may be able to provide funding for seniors who have limited financial resources.