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Adult Day Care Centers

Community Programs Offer Seniors
Activities, Outings and Companionship
By: Caregiver Zone

What is an adult day care center?

Adult day care centers provide services for seniors who require supervision as well as social stimulation and often cannot be left home alone safely. Many suffer from disorientation, confusion and other forms of cognitive dysfunction. More independent elders simply seeking companionship and diversion should investigate senior centers in their area.

Most adult day service programs provide vans to take seniors to and from the center, where they might spend time with peers, play Scrabble, enjoy a nutritious breakfast or lunch, watch a movie, take a stroll and enjoy other activities and outings. Social workers generally staff the centers, which often offer support and counseling for family members.

Some centers specialize in clients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and offer many activities specifically tailored to those with memory disorders. Staff members at these centers have expertise in communicating with such individuals and coping with seniors who tend to wander.

Adult day care centers enable seniors to continue to live at home rather than move to a full-time care facility. The facilities can also be a godsend for caregivers in need of regular or occasional respite from the burdens of looking after loved ones, whether to work, run errands or simply have some time to themselves.

What is an adult day health care center?

Unlike adult day care centers, adult day health care centers offer a range of medical services as well as basic supervision and social stimulation. The staff includes health care workers who monitor seniors’ temperature and blood pressure; measure out and administer medication; provide assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating and going to the bathroom; and offer physical, occupational, speech and other rehabilitative therapies. Some accept clients suffering from incontinence but many don’t; you need to ask to make sure.

What do adult day care and adult day health care centers cost?

Hospitals, nursing homes, churches, mental health facilities or stand-alone centers may all offer adult day services — and each may have a different fee structure. Whatever the amount, it will almost always be far less than the cost of providing in-home care.

Fees at accredited private adult day care facilities can average $40 per day with an extra $3 to $5 for transportation. However, many nonprofit centers charge a maximum of $10, and adult day care centers funded by religious groups or private foundations are also often inexpensive. If a center does charge, be sure to ask about sliding-scale fees based on financial need.

Adult day health care centers generally charge more because they offer medical services; fees can average $80 a day. The state and federal governments may cover the cost of some services. For example, Medicaid, Medicare or veterans’ benefits might pay for some physical or speech therapy. Staff members should be able to tell you which services might be covered.

Evaluating adult day care and adult day health care centers

Before choosing an adult day care or adult day health care center, determine the level of care and the kinds of activity the senior wants and needs. Then decide what you as a caregiver need — for example, free time, coverage while at a job or assistance developing a care plan.

Whenever possible, discuss the idea of adult day services with the person you care for and include them in the planning process. While some seniors may initially balk, their reluctance may disappear when they visit a center and meet peers with similar interests.

When you call adult day care centers, ask them to send you:

  • A flier or brochure

  • Eligibility criteria

  • Information about costs and discounts

  • A monthly activities calendar

  • Sample menus for several weeks

  • Application procedures

If your state licenses adult day care centers, check up on the facility you are considering. You will also want to inquire about staff credentials and experience in dealing with social and medical geriatric issues relevant to the senior you care for. Ask about the ratio of clients to staff; an adult day care center with a lower client-to-staff ratio is likely to offer seniors more direct attention and supervision. Six clients per staff member is a good benchmark for a center where clients don’t have specialized medical needs.