Adult Day Care Programs—How to Tell if They’re Right for Your Elder

Adult day care programs can benefit your senior’s emotional health.
Image source: Flickr user Ryan Forsythe[/caption]

elderly woman smiling
Adult day care programs can benefit your senior’s emotional health.
Image source: Flickr user Ryan Forsythe

When it comes to looking after the well-being of elders, there is a whole spectrum of options available. They range from having the elder live independently at home (maybe with a few check-ins a week), to full-time care within a nursing home. One middle-of-the-road option is signing your elder up for an adult day care program.
What is an adult day-care program?
When people hear the phrase “day care program,” images of babies and toddlers often spring to mind. But day care isn’t only for the younger set. You’ll find that adult day care programs generally fall into two categories: social activities and health activities.
The former focuses on providing recreation and intellectual stimulation for the elderly during the day, possibly with some medication monitoring. One of the main goals is to keep your loved one from becoming isolated, which can lead to mental and physical deterioration. The day’s schedule centers around providing the elder with cognition-building activities that also maintain social skills. For instance, elders may start the morning with an art project followed by a discussion group. The activities coupled with the socialization can help individuals to maintain a sense of connection with others.
The latter adult day care program is for seniors with more severe medical problems. Their day may consist of physical therapy, health education, and activities designed to prevent or delay institutionalization. At the sub-acute rehab center where I worked, we’d often bring up the possibility of adult day care to patients who were ready to be discharged, but still required additional supervision.
Who can benefit from adult day care programs?
There are many different types of elders who can benefit from adult day care programs. A common example is an individual who has been the victim of a stroke, heart attack, or accident who needs further rehabilitation before returning to the community, but does not qualify for sub-acute services. Sometimes, elders considering adult day care are used to being so independent that convincing them to try out a program takes a lot of effort. When conducting discharge planning for one of my patients, he was adamant that “day care” was for babies and there was no way in heck he was going! (Actually, he didn’t say “heck.” I cleaned that up a bit.)
His family and I gently explained to him that adult day care programs might not be what he thought. We convinced him to try one out for a week to see what it was like. By the end of that time, he’d completely gotten over the idea that day care was exclusively for babies. He made several new friends, some of which had even been in the hospital with him. He found the staff intelligent and caring, and genuinely looked forward to coming to the center each day.
Elders aren’t the only ones helped by adult day care programs either. Often, such places provide relief for family members – especially if they’re unable to care for their elders because they work during the day. This leaves them the time and peace of mind to truly enjoy visits with their loved ones, instead of worrying how to take care of them on a daily basis.
Talk to your elder about adult day care programs
If your elder has decision-making capacity, invite them to be part of the conversation about adult day care. Let them know the potential benefits, such as physical therapy to help them stay independent for as long as possible, and socialization so they don’t get lonely. Whatever is decided, these programs can offer some excellent options for maintaining your elder’s quality of life.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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