Adult Day Health Centers Benefit Older Adults and Their Caregivers

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By: John Engler Friday, November 18, 2016 12:00 AM
While many Baby Boomers have children who are either in college or approaching college age, they may also be facing the additional challenge of caring for their aging parents. With just so many hours in a day to meet professional and financial obligations, more and more Boomer caregivers are seeking options to juggle all their responsibilities while alleviating some of the family caregiving stress. Adult day programs allow caregivers to work or engage in their daily routine, while providing loved ones with opportunities to socialize in a safe environment.
Adult day health centers are designed to accommodate older adults at a variety of care levels by providing tiered programs tailored to participants’ needs while taking into consideration any medical or emotional concerns. There are multiple opportunities to interact with peers within a casually structured, supportive environment. Participants receive cognitive stimulation in group activities and mild physical exercise, which both help to maintain their independence longer. For working caregivers, adult day programs can often mean the difference between keeping a family member at home longer or placement in a long-term care facility.
Care Options

Generally, there are three types of adult day health programs that bring isolated seniors out of their homes and into a welcoming, safe environment: social day, adult day health, and dementia day health.
Social day programs are for those individuals who require less personalized assistance. Usually these programs provide enjoyable activities and exercise throughout the day, along with one main sit-down meal and nutritious snacks in between.
Adults with physical or cognitive limitations may benefit more from adult day health services, which require a physician’s referral. These services are similar to social day programs but emphasize more personalized assistance to promote and maintain maximum function and independence.
Adults with dementia-related disorders, including Alzheimer’s, may require the next level of care. The goal of this model is to delay the need for nursing home placement by offering a safe, supervised environment with specialized staff and appropriate activities. These programs offer added emotional support, and medical-related care.
When considering an adult day health center for your loved one, you may be unsure of where to begin. The first step is to identify your loved one’s needs and your own. For example, does your parent need one or more of the following: a special diet, physical therapy, social interaction, secure surroundings, medical care, and/or assistance with daily activities? Do you also have professional and personal obligations that must be met on a daily basis?
Adult day health centers in your area can be found by researching online, or through referrals from senior centers or your doctor. Once you’ve compiled a list, call and request a brochure, enrollment criteria, menu samples, and a calendar of events. Look for the number of years the facility has been in operation, certifications, days and hours of operation, cost, ratio of staff to participants and their training levels, and physical/cognitive eligibility. [If long term care insurance has been previously purchased by your loved one, adult day programs may be covered depending on the terms of the policy.]
After refining your choices, visit each and take notes. Was the staff friendly, positive and informative? Was the center safe and clean with sturdy furnishings and accessibility? Do participants look happy and do they have a voice in determining future activities? Remember, it pays to be selective when choosing an adult day health center.
Adult day services can be a welcome antidote to caregiver burnout, providing older adults with the care, stimulation, and socialization that corresponds with quality of life. For more information, contact the Elder Care Locator, a service of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging at, or the National Adult Day Services Association at