Caregivers often face difficult realities. They want to provide the best care possible for their loved ones, but they often also need to hold down a job and take care of the rest of their families. That means senior adult loved ones must sometimes be left alone for hours, which can lead to both safety concerns and mental wellness worries.
However, adult day care, or adult day services as it’s known in the industry, can help alleviate many of those issues, providing older adults with a safe place to spend their days filled with engaging, fun and social activities. In fact, adult day care centers provide benefits for both the seniors in the programs and their caregivers.
“For the caregiver, there’s that peace of mind of knowing your loved one is in a safe place,” said Chrissie Schettini, senior VP/program director for several adult day services centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Schettini also serves as the vice-president of the Connecticut Association of Adult Day Services and on the board of the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA). “We offer community support for the caregiver and an individualized approach to your family. It’s a respite, and it allows people to stay working.”
The greatest benefit of adult day services programs, though, is the sense of purpose it gives senior adults.
“We enable them to stay living as independently as possible in their community for as long as possible,” Schettini said. “It gives them a sense of purpose. It gives them a reason to get up and get dressed in the morning. It allows folks to feel like they’re a part of something and have purpose in their life. When you get to that age it’s harder to see that.”
When should I consider adult day services?
Adult day care isn’t just for senior adults who need assistance with day-to-day activities. It’s also perfect for those who simply need the social contact of spending time with others.
“Adult day services should be a first option when a senior is still able to move independently and understand and appreciate the center they are going to,” Schettini said.
Several models of care are available:
- A medical model that includes nurses and CNAs who attend to health care needs
- A social model where the focus is on providing social interactions for seniors but may still include medical professionals on staff, depending on state regulations
- Specialized programs for memory care or cultural needs
The type of help your loved one needs is the best indicator of what type of model you want to check out. Keep in mind that regulations vary from state to state, which can affect the type of services offered and the level of staffing required.
What should I look for in an adult day services center?
While an adult day care center might be the best choice for your loved one, it’s important to choose the right program that meets your loved one’s specific needs and fits the budget. Follow these steps to identify a center that’s right for your loved one:
- Start by figuring out what your loved one needs. Determine the answers to these questions:
- Do they have physical limitations and need assistance doing certain tasks?
- Do they need help with their medications?
- Do they desire more social interaction during the day?
- Are there cultural attributes that need to be considered (such as not speaking English) or certain customs your loved one observes?
- Do you as the caregiver need help every day or just respite care?
- What is the budget?
- If you’re unfamiliar with the adult day care options in your area, start by searching the NADSA database for centers near you.
- Identify several options that can provide the type of care your loved one needs.
- Set up visits to each center during the day so you can see what each has to offer. Schettini recommends taking your loved one with you on the visit and watching how they react to both the setting and the people at the center. Consider if your loved one has friends at any of the places you are visiting, as familiar faces can help the transition.
- Ask the right questions. NADSA has a checklist of questions to ask when visiting an adult day services facility.
- Check out the center with outside sources. Look for any complaints filed with your state or Better Business Bureau. If possible, get references from others.
- Give it a trial run. Have your loved one attend for a few days to make sure it’s a good fit before making any long-term commitments. Remember it can take a few times before your loved one feels comfortable.
What about the cost?
Senior care of any kind can be expensive, but adult day services centers are one of the most cost-effective options for seniors who need some level of monitoring during the day but don’t need 24-hour care.
The median monthly cost for adult day services in 2020 was $1,603, according to the annual GenCare Cost of Care Survey. That compares with $4,300 for an assisted living facility and $4,576 for in-home care with a home health aide.
“Comparatively to home care or residential placement, adult day services are the most bang for the buck,” Schettini said. “You get the most service for the longest period of time for the least amount of money.”
While that may be true, the cost can still be prohibitive. If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, many adult day services will be covered. Some health insurance and Medicare supplemental plans also cover adult day care. Grants are also available, so check with your state to learn more about assistance options.
When is adult day care not the right answer?
Adult day services are perfect for seniors who don’t need around-the-clock care but may need assistance with some daily activities.
Nearly every senior can benefit from the social aspect of adult day services to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Many centers also offer transportation to and from the senior’s home as well as offering outings and trips.
“The only people I can think of that wouldn’t be a good fit for an adult day services center are people that it’s not physically safe for them to be there,” Schettini said. This would include seniors who need one-on-one care all the time or those with needs too great for the staff at the center.
Otherwise, adult day care is a great option for seniors who need some care and social opportunities during the day but can live on their own or with someone else at night.
“I would just encourage people to learn more about adult day services,” Schettini said. “Consider it as the first option. It is cost-effective. It offers so much more for the senior and for the caregiver because [loved ones] are safe, cared for and happy.”