Adult Day Care: A Complete Guide

Adult daycare can offer a perfect alternative to caregivers by providing a stimulating social environment for the seniors outside of the home while giving caregivers a much-needed break.

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Adult day care can offer a perfect alternative to caregivers by providing a stimulating social environment for the seniors outside of the home while giving caregivers a much-needed break. You should, therefore, explore your options and find the best centers that can offer the best solutions for you or your loved ones.

According to a report by the American Association of Retired Person (AARP), over 34 million Americans provide unpaid care for their aging loved ones. We all know that this is a tough and challenging task that's always driven by unwavering love and loyalty to our aging loved ones. But no matter how committed you are in ensuring that your aging loved one receives total support and care that he/she needs, it's almost impossible to do it all by yourself!

For many families, this is where adult day care comes in handy. It's a godsend service that allows caregivers to take periodic breaks from caregiving while ensuring that your aging loved one is well-taken care of in a stimulating and engaging manner. It's a great alternative for those who cannot afford full-time in-home care, especially if your loved ones are aging in place.

The prevalence of adult day care centers in the United States, as well as in other developed nations, is a true reflection that caregivers cannot always be there to provide everything that a loved one aging in place needs to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take a look at what adult day care entails, its benefits to both the seniors and caregivers and why it should be among your priorities. So whether you're looking for day care services for a loved one or yourself, this guide will help you find a good adult day care center that best fits your needs.

Table of Contents

What is Adult Day Care?

Simply put, an adult day care is a professional non-residential facility that offers a planned program of activities for aging adults who require supervised care during the day, as well as those who are lonely and isolated. These centers generally support nutritional, health, social, and daily living needs for older adults in professionally staffed, group settings.

Adult day care centers allow seniors to enjoy planned activities and socialize in a group setting while also receiving proper care and the required health services in a safe and friendly environment. More importantly, adult day care centers offer family caregivers break or respite from their normal caregiving responsibilities without having to worry about their aging loved ones since they're in a safe place.

The services offered at an adult day care center may vary from facility to facility, as well as in the level of care offered. In addition to a few health-related and personal care services, many adult day care centers will focus on offering social and recreational services. On the other hand, other adult day care centers may offer more comprehensive therapeutic and medical services such as occupational, physical, and speech therapies. Other adult day care centers often focus on offering specialized services for aging adults with specific conditions such as Alzheimer's, dementia, and disability.

Adult day care centers tend to operate during normal business hours, Monday to Friday though some facilities offer additional services in the evenings and weekends. So whatever the range of services you're looking for, keep in mind that adult day care centers offer two primary objectives:

  • They're meant to give family caregivers a much-needed break from caring for an aging loved one. This is to give them time to attend to their personal needs and obligations as well as to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.
  • They're meant to give seniors, especially those aging in place, a chance to get out of their homes, socialize with others, and also to receive physical, mental, and social stimulation in a professional and safer environment.

3 Types of Adult Day Care

There's no question that you'll periodically need a break to engage in other activities or to relax if your loved one if aging in place and you're tasked with taking care of him/her. As we've noted, a perfect solution for you could be an adult day care. Well, an adult day care not only provides caregivers a much-need break from around-the-clock care but also allows them to have the peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and in good hands.

When choosing the right adult day care for you or your loved one, it's vital to know the three different types of adult day care so that you make the right choice based on your needs. These three types of adult day care include:

  • Social Adult Day Care
  • Adult Day Health Care
  • Alzheimer's and Dementia Adult Day Care

Social Day Care

This type of adult day care facility focuses on enriching a senior's life by offering engaging social and community activities that revolve around each individual's unique abilities, skills, and knowledge.

Some of the activities offered in a social adult day care include:

  • Mentally stimulating games such as chess and bingo
  • Creative expression through arts and crafts
  • Nutritious meals and snacks
  • Local outings
  • Birthday and holiday celebrations
  • Discussion groups about films, books, and/or current events
  • Gentle exercises such as stretching and mild yoga
  • Musical entertainment such as group sing-a-longs

In addition to these recreational activities, many facilities that offer social adult day care services offer other services such as transportation to and from the center, support groups for caregivers, social services such as guidance and counseling to both the senior and their caregivers, as well as health support services such as vision screening and blood pressure monitoring.

Adult Day Health Care

Commonly known as ADHC, these are centers that provide a wide range of medical, physical, speech, and occupational therapy and services to older adults. These facilities are typically staffed with a registered nurse (RN) and other health professionals to cater to the varying needs of the seniors. Generally, a senior will be admitted into the facility after a health assessment by a physician.

ADHC centers are, therefore, meant of aging adults who:

  • Are frail and experiencing mental, physical, and social problems
  • Can no longer carry out their daily activities such as bathing and eating
  • Are depressed, anxious, and require emotional support
  • Suffer from stroke, confusion, and isolation
  • Are lonely, isolated, and desire peer interaction

If you're a participant of Medicaid and Medicare, you can be eligible to receive ADHC care from any local Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) as long as you're aged 55 or older. You have to be able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment and living in a PACE service area. Through ADHC, a senior can access services associated with chronic care needs while living in their homes as long as possible while maintaining their independence.

Alzheimer's and Dementia Day Care

This type of adult day care offers social and health services to seniors who have specific cognitive problems such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Most of the activities provided in the facilities are designed not just to enhance participants' functional, social, and physical abilities but also to ensure that they remain in a secure environment and do not wander as is common in older adults with such conditions.

The Type of Services and Amenities Offered in Adult Day Care

The specific services and amenities of adult day care may vary from center to center. However, adult day care centers generally offer environments where seniors can safely socialize with other seniors. These facilities also offer nutritious midday meals, as well as various engaging events and activities such as trivial games, gardening, pet therapy, holiday parties, arts and crafts, relaxation techniques, birthday celebrations, group conversations, and many more.

Some facilities also offer music, movies, libraries, and outings to parks, museums, and other local attractions. And because exercises are an important part of healthy living, many facilities offer fitness and movement activities that are designed for each participant's abilities. For instance, there are activities such as dancing, chairs exercises, and stretching.

That's not all; many adult day care facilities offer various alternative healthcare and limited medical including:

  • Vision and hearing care
  • Nursing care
  • Music or art therapy
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapies
  • Support groups and counseling
  • Dental care, and
  • Foot care

Benefits of Adult Day Care

You're probably still wondering whether adult day care is good for you or your loved one. Well there's nothing wrong with that but to drive this point home, here are some of the benefits of an adult day care program.

Respite for Caregivers

Believe it or not, looking after an aging loved one or sick loved is never easy. It's one of the toughest responsibilities that you can ever undertake. This is perhaps why many family members often prefer to take their aging loved ones to a nursing home. As such, caregivers who take care of seniors aging in place often suffer from burnout. They often work around the clock to ensure that the seniors are safe and well taken care of.

That being said, adult day care programs are a great way to offer respite for caregivers. It is a superb way of helping them relieve anxiety, stress, and exhaustion that's often associated with caring for the aging. They'll also have time to attend to their personal needs, run errands, and even work. In essence, taking your loved one to an adult day care will make his/her caregivers happier so that they can even provide better care.

To this end, adult day care is a great way for caregivers to break from the stresses of caring for a loved one while balancing it with work, personal time, and other family obligations.

It can enhance their Creativity and Self-Expression

Our needs to vent out our frustrations do not decline even if we get old. With that in mind, seniors need an avenue to vent out their frustration or even express their feelings about the challenges of aging. Believe it or not, there's no better way to express your feeling, creativity, and generally express yourself than through arts and crafts.

Many adult day care programs offer various activities such as drawing, crafts, music, and many more. These activities can be ideal in enhancing the seniors' creativity while enhancing their cognitive level. If anything, it's almost impossible for seniors to receive cognitive art therapy at home, so an adult day care might just be the perfect solution.

A Superb Solution to Loneliness

Old age always comes with loneliness. Of course, you'll lose a significant percentage of your independence now that you probably cannot drive yourself or even move around without assistance. Most of your friends who are aged might have perhaps, god forbid, passed away. In short, aging always revolves around being lonely as you'll spend most of your time in your family home. This can lead to various health problems such as depression, dementia, and a weak immune system.

Adult day care can be a perfect solution to loneliness in seniors. Taking them to an adult day care center will give them the chance to live in their home, socialize with others, play games, and even make them happier. Keep in mind that one of the worst things that you can do to a senior suffering from dementia is leaving them alone all day without any human interaction. This can threaten their physical safety and even deteriorate their already-delicate mental condition. 

An excellent Antidote to Boredom

One of the most important benefits of taking your aging loved one to an adult day care is that he/she will participate in a wide range of invigorating activities that will make them active, engaged, and happier. Seniors often engage in activities such as dancing, gardening, singing, and many more activities that alleviate boredom.

A Perfect Remedy for Aimlessness

Even though many people look forward to retirement; that time when they can sit back and enjoy the fruits of the long working years, it can be some sort of a curse. This means that you'll be staying at home and spending almost the entire day doing nothing. With nothing to do, you can become aimless and fall into disrepair and become insomniac. You'll generally find yourself staying up until the wee hours and sleeping past noon. This is generally associated with depression, poor nutrition, and even increased risk of dementia.

That being said, a trip to an adult day care can change things for the better. You'll not only get involved in engaging routines but it will at least give you something to do.

A Chance to Access Crucial Services

Even though seniors can access various medical services once they attain the age of 65 thanks to programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, these can sometimes not be enough. Things can also be worse if you have mobility issues or even other medical issues that are not covered with the above-mentioned programs.

Under such scenarios, an adult day care, especially one that offers health care services can offer you or your aging loved one with a perfect chance to access crucial healthcare services.

A Great Way to Delay Moving to a Long-term Care Facility

Many aging seniors are increasingly considering aging in place. This is because staying in their homes gives them a lot more independence when compared to moving into a long-term care facility. So if you've been thinking of aging in place or delaying moving into a long-term care facility, adult day care could be a good move. This is because daily or weekly visits to an adult day care will generally impact a senior's state of mind and may diminish the need to move into a long-term care facility.

A Superb Way to Stimulate Memory and Intellectual

Honestly speaking, many people often believe that adult day care centers are only meant to keep seniors busy. While there's some truth in it, there's so much more. It's a known fact that seniors can have varying degrees of cognition and can achieve many benefits by visiting adult day care centers.

For example, a senior suffering from memory loss as a result of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's can benefit from attending adult day care. Today, many adult day care facilities have incorporated programs and services that are meant to stimulate memories and intellects of those suffering from these diseases.  

Beneficial to those with Dementia

As we noted earlier, there are Alzheimer's and Dementia types of adult day care that are specifically tailored for people suffering from dementia. These facilities can be highly-beneficial to an aging senior suffering from dementia or cognitive issues. These programs can be beneficial for people with dementia who:

  • Do not require round the clock or constant one-on-one care or assistance
  • Live in their homes or with a caregiver
  • Are not verbally or physically violent
  • Do not wander excessively
  • Do not have bowel issues
  • Have some level of mobility even if it means using a wheelchair

In essence, adult day care is perfect for those in the early stages of Dementia and Alzheimer's and can still interact well socially. The type of services provided in adult day care centers can be great in slowing down cognitive decline. So if your aging loved one is still in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease or if there's a risk that the caregiver is likely to burnout, an adult day care center might be one of the best solutions.

You probably still have doubts about rolling your aging loved one into Alzheimer's and dementia adult day care, you can consider trying a few sessions just to test if it's right for them. You can try hourly, daily or weekly sessions and see their response before diving into it full-time. The idea here is to start small and transition into it with time. But if it proves difficult to them, you can look for other options such as specific objections that are tailored to help your aging loved one such as companion service or in-home care.

According to a study by the Alzheimer's Association, adult day care facilities have become leading providers of care to aging seniors with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. This is because adult day care centers generally offer seniors a chance to participate in various activities and socialize in a safe environment. This in turn not only slows down cognitive decline but can enable them to carry out certain daily living activities without any assistance.

The Costs of Adult Day Care

One of the best bits about adult day care is that it's quite affordable, especially when compared to other senior care alternatives. The national average cost of adult day care in the United States is $64 per day. You should, however, keep in mind that this cost can vary significantly depending on the geographic location of the facility, as well as on the level of luxury or amenities provided. You can pay hourly or for a full day service.

How to Pay for Adult Day Care

There are numerous ways to pay for adult day care. They include: 

Veterans' Benefits

If your aging loved one is a veteran and qualifies for the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical benefits, they can be entitled to enjoy services at VA-run adult day care facilities. Keep in mind that a surviving spouse of a veteran can also qualify for these services. 


If your aging loved one is registered in Medicare Part C and not the traditional Part A and B, he/she might enjoy limited coverage of the program's home care services. The level of care that he/she can attain will, however, depend on the provided plan.

Medicaid and PACE

Some Medicaid programs can pay for adult day care services, especially for seniors with low income. In partnership with PACE, Medicaid can provide comprehensive in-home care as well as adult day care for frail elders who are eligible for these programs.

How to Select an Appropriate Adult Day Care for You or Aging Loved One

The most important thing when choosing the right adult day care for you or your aging loved ones should revolve around answering the following questions.

  • Is the center easily accessible?
  • How long has the adult day care been in operation and is it licensed?
  • Has it received a citation or any legit complaints about the type of care that it provides?
  • How will your loved one get to the facility?
  • Do they offer transportation and if so, is there any extra charge?
  • What are the costs of care and can you afford it?
  • What are the types of activities provided?
  • Is there any financial assistance?
  • What types of meals and snacks are included?
  • What is the ratio of staff to senior attendees?
  • Does the center offer both group and individual activities?

As you can see, the benefits of an adult day care center are endless. For caregivers, it's an excellent way to take a break and cater to your personal needs while having the peace of mind that your aging loved one is in good and safe hands whenever you can't be there. And for seniors, it's a chance to interact and socialize with others. It's a good opportunity to change the environment for a couple of hours, stay engaged, and indulge in various fun and stimulating activities even in old age.

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