Adult Day Care – What Is It, and Is it Right for Your Loved One with Dementia?

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According to Alzheimer’s Association’s latest report, caregivers provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care to their family members and loved ones with Alzheimer’s in 2016. Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be a consuming responsibility. Caregivers may struggle to balance caregiving needs with their career, supporting their own children, engaging in hobbies, and enjoying life in general. Sound familiar? Are you inching toward caregiver burnout? Then perhaps it’s time to consider enrolling your loved one in adult day care. Yes, the term “adult day care,” sounds a little silly, but it can be a serious relief for you and a positive experience for your loved one. What is adult day care, and is it the right solution for you and your family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

What is Adult Day Care?

When you first hear the term “adult day care,” you may imagine a day care center for children filled with toys, finger painting, and lots of singing and dancing. Adult day care, however, is very different. These programs are primarily intended to provide support and care for adults with health needs, disabilities, and/or dementia. According to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA), there were over 4,600 adult day care programs in the United States in 2010 that served over 260,000 participants and family caregivers. A survey by the NADSA and MetLife Mature Market Institute found that almost half of participants in adult day care have some form of dementia.

While every adult day care program is different, most of them have commonalities. Many adult day care services:

  • Operate five days a week during regular business hours, though some offer additional care hours
  • Provide meals to participants
  • Transport participants to and from day care
  • Assist participants with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Provide interdisciplinary health services, like nursing, physical therapy, and even case management
  • Offer cognitive stimulation programs, like educational classes and memory training
  • Provide exercise programs that are appropriate for an older population

Some adult day care programs specifically focus on providing care to individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s and provide staff that are trained to work and care for this population. According to NADSA, the average adult day care facility includes one direct care worker for every six participants.

The Benefits of Adult Day Care

You can probably already start to imagine some of the benefits of adult day care. On a basic level, it provides a safe environment where your loved one will receive appropriate care. Adult day care can also give your loved one important social connections, encourage them to exercise and learn, and provide them with daily activities and stimulation that might be difficult for you to offer all on your own, especially if you have other things, like a career and family, that need your time and attention.

While adult day care can be a great experience for your loved one, it can also help you! It provides you relief from having to be a caregiver 24/7 to your loved one. Adult day care can let you keep your job or allow you to spend time focusing on YOU. You have your own goals in life, kids that need your attention, hobbies, and friends. Adult day care lets you maintain your life even in the shadow of dementia.

Is Adult Day Care Right for Your Family?

Many caregivers initially feel conflicted about putting their loved one in adult day care. You may worry that it will seem like you don’t want to care for your loved one. You may also feel uncomfortable leaving Mom or Dad with a group of strangers.

It is important to do your research and to find an adult day care center that you feel comfortable with. Ideally, this center will specialize in working with adults with dementia. When you find an adult day care center, make sure you sit down for a consultation to learn about their programming. Ask about the ratio of caregivers to participants, what nursing services they provide, and how they will handle some of the challenges that are specific to your family member. You should definitely ask for referrals to families that currently use them. Call these people and make sure they feel that their family members are getting great care at the facility. Don’t be shy about touring several different adult day care options in your area.

Make sure the adult day care center is situated to care for your loved one. If, for example, your family member is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and needs round-the-clock personalized care, an adult day care center is unlikely to be able to provide this much care. In some instances, if your loved one’s care needs are simply becoming too much, you may need to consider whether it is a better idea to move your loved one to an adult memory care facility instead of merely placing them in adult day care.

To learn more about adult day care services and to find programs in your area, visit the website of the National Adult Day Services Association. We also encourage you to attend our next caregiver and family support group if you happen to live in the Poway/San Diego County area. Our support group is free to the public, and is a great place to ask other families about their adult day care experiences and for adult day care referrals.

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