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What is Adult Day Care?
Understand what Adult Day Services Offer

Adult day services emerged several decades ago. It's an alternative to institutional care when families need help caring for a loved one, but either cannot afford assisted living or chooses to care for one at home.

Adult day care (ADC) offers mental, social, and physical stimulation and activities for adults who have lost some independence because of physical or cognitive impairments or chronic health conditions. ADCs are different from senior community centers that attract the more self-reliant, independent and mobile older adults.

At daycare, one can expect to receive meals, activities, and care for households where the family caregiver cannot provide care at home during the daytime.

What is Adult Day Care?

Adult Day Care
Adult Day Care

If you're an adult child of a parent or a family member with needs, you know that giving care 24/7 is exhausting.

The adult daycare offers services for family members who works full or part-time or has additional obligations like child-rearing, and is especially useful when one takes time for self-care. Adult day care is the perfect answer.

The National Adult Day Service Association defines it "coordinated programs of professional and compassionate services for adults in a community-based group setting. They provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day."

Adult day care centers allow seniors to enjoy safe and productive days in a caring environment while returning to the comfort and familiarity of home at night. Approximately 4,000 adult day care centers are in cities and the suburbs across the country, according to the National Adult Day Services Association.

Though most adult day care facilities either offer services geared towards socialization, medical care or programs specifically for the mentally ill, facilities are evolving into specialized centers that cater to certain ailments or disabilities.

In general, adult day care centers provide daily services for aging adults and the handicapped. Most operate for 10-12 hours a day, leaving overnight care for family caregivers or in-home medical care service personnel. In the past eight years, the number of adult day care facilities has continued to rise in the United States. In fact, since 2002, the number of adult day programs in operation has grown by approximately thirty-five percent.

For adult children, who provide care for aging parents, adult day services is a useful option. Full-time caregiving is an exhausting job, and many family members are not able to provide the needed assistance a loved one requires around the clock. All caregivers need a break, vacation, and time to take care of their health.

Adult day care is a viable solution.

Some ADCs offer services for the caregiver, teaching you how to handle particular situations so that you're better prepared to handle one's needs. When selecting a program, first consider the type of care your loved one requires.

Types of Adult Day Care Centers

General Adult Day Care Services

These centers provide socialization opportunities and basic support for seniors. Many general senior day care programs require that seniors be able to swallow their medications without assistance.

There are three types of adult day centers. One offers a social setting that includes meals, recreation, and some health-related services. Another offers the same but includes more intensive health and therapeutic services. And the third daycare will provide specialized care to recipients with chronic needs or diagnosed dementias or developmental disabilities.

Family members and caregivers typically select the type of center a care recipient attends based on the care needed.

Adult Day Care for those with Alzheimer's/Dementia

Day care centers that specialize in Alzheimer's and dementia care employ specially trained staff. Also when offering social activities, these centers provide a level of specialized care for adults with memory problems and a propensity for wandering.

Medical Care Services

Medical adult day care centers give individuals with chronic physical or cognitive impairments the care they need. A highly cost-effective long-term care alternative, medical adult day care centers administer nursing care, meals, and therapeutic activities in a safe, structured and homelike environment.

Registered nurses, personal care assistants, activities staff, and therapists help clients maintain the best possible quality of life while also offering respite for family caregivers.

They may provide health care support services including:

  • Assistance with daily personal care and hygiene
  • Administration of medications and injections
  • Wound care
  • Regular monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Tracheotomy care and tube feeding may also be available

Are Adult Day Care Centers Licensed?

Is adult day care regulated?
Is adult day care regulated?

The growth of the industry prompts a demand for accountability and standards for quality.

Individual states offer dual licensing for adult day care facilities. So, if your loved one needs help monitoring a health condition while you are at work, she's cared for at the adult day care center; avoiding a move to a long-term care facility. It's a less costly option for families too.

Dual licensed facilities help caregivers and care recipients by offering both, day care, and health care. On staff are nurses and other licensed health professionals to monitor and care for the participants who would not be able to stay in a day care setting.

Another interesting point of dual licensed facilities is that government funding offers assistance. For those who cannot afford day care services, a dual licensed center is an option.

Medicare covers limited adult day care services. Medicare Part B covers mental health treatment, prescribed by a physician and provided at an outpatient mental health clinic. If the clinic is also an adult daycare center (dual licensed), the patient has access to the benefit of those services while receiving mental health treatment.

Medicare covers care if it involves actual medical treatment -- administration and monitoring of medication: treatment to recover from a medical crisis, or individual or group psychotherapy.

Medicare pays some of the expenses when the day care administers medical services.

More Regulations with Dual Licensing

Dual licensing leads to better regulation. When a facility offers medical care, the local board of health visits and examines the facility annually. The medical staff must comply with background checks. The facility must register with the state boards.

For family caregivers, it's difficult to admit that it's time to get extra help caring for you loved one.

The issues become more complicated when elderly loved ones, who've been independent, and now opposed to getting outside "help" or allowing strangers to help them with daily tasks.

However, adult day care services are a tremendous help to everyone involved, and the best time to explore the options is before you're worn out or when your loved one needs more care than you can give.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.