Adult Day Programs Offer Many Benefits for People with Dementia

Published: July 26, 2022
Last updated: April 6, 2023

Adult daycare programs can provide infinite value and numerous benefits both for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia as well as their family caregivers.

What Is Adult Day Care?

Adult daycare programs vary significantly from one to another, but they tend to have a few things in common. These activity programs are geared toward older adults or adults with disabilities.

They're usually held during daytime hours at senior centers, nursing homes, residential care facilities, or community centers. Some are held on private grounds, for instance, in a country farm setting.

Many programs are specifically geared to meet the needs of people with dementia. Some day centers offer all-inclusive care, including personal care, medical services, and behavioral support. 

Many centers offer engaging activities and opportunities for socialization among participants. Some programs offer special activities, such as weekly trips to local attractions or restaurants.

Some people don't like the term "daycare" for adults. It can feel embarrassing or demeaning due to its connotation to children. The terms "adult day programs” or “adult day centers" can be considered more dignified.

What Do Adult Day Centers Do For People With Dementia?

Adult day services offer a wide range of benefits for people living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

Social Interaction

The idea of socializing can sometimes feel overwhelming to people with dementia. However, human beings are social creatures and we all need to spend time with others. Social isolation is recognized to be extremely damaging to our mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.

The social aspect of adult day programs can counter isolation and fill the need for socialization with others. It is beneficial for someone with dementia to attend day programs long enough to build a relationship with staff and other members - regardless of whether they remember them.

Mentally Stimulating Activities

It can be easy to overwhelm someone with dementia with too much stimulation, but too little stimulation creates problems of its own. The key is to find the right balance of stimulation, with just enough challenge to evoke feelings of satisfaction and success.  

Humans need mental stimulation, and when unmet, it can show up in our mood and behavior. Dementia patients also benefit from mental stimulation by preserving their cognitive skills, slowing their decline, and preserving their independence. 

It's very difficult for many families to provide this balance amid numerous other responsibilities, so, unfortunately, many people with dementia living at home miss out. Dementia day programs can help provide a healthy balance of mentally stimulating activities to support people with dementia to live and function at their best.

Meaningful Activity

You may have heard that it’s important for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia to engage in activities throughout their day. However, nobody likes busywork or wasting their time on pointless pursuits. It's important for all humans to have a sense of purpose– including those with diagnosed dementia. 

People don't necessarily think the same about things that are meaningful and purposeful to them; however, some trends emerge. People generally like to help those they care about. For instance, many older adults would prefer helping out with light housekeeping or cooking over playing Bingo. 

Identifying what is meaningful and purposeful for your loved one with dementia is an important step toward meeting their needs. However, it can take creativity to figure out how to support them to succeed given their limitations.

Adult day centers can help with this, both in providing opportunities for meaningful activity as well as in providing insight into which activities are meaningful, or how to offer them in a way that feels meaningful to your loved one.

Look for an adult daycare program that customizes activities to the specific interests of each participant.

Physical Activity

Being physically active every day is an important part of mental and physical health. Among many other benefits, routine physical activity can improve appetite, sleep, and mood.

For some people, even just getting ready and out the door to the day center is more activity than they'd otherwise receive. Most programs include a variety of fun physical games or gentle stretching and exercise programs throughout the day.

A Refreshed Family Caregiver

The value of a rested and refreshed family caregiver cannot be overstated. People with dementia are very sensitive to the emotions and moods of others, and it's hard to be calm and responsive when you're exhausted or burned out. 

When you're struggling to survive and stumble through each day, how could you possibly go above and beyond the basics, providing the physical, mental, and meaningful activities that are necessary for holistic wellness?

Adult day centers help meet these needs directly, but also indirectly. The break from caregiving duties enables primary caregivers to preserve their energy and be at their best for their aging loved ones.

Valuable Members Of The Care Team

Adult day center staff can become valuable members of the care team for a person with dementia. When day program staff offer insight to caregivers about how to interact with the person with dementia more successfully.

For instance, with an approach to communicating more effectively or reducing resistance to personal care, the person can experience a wide range of benefits. This includes better connection with others and improved general care.

How Do Adult Day Centers Benefit Family Caregivers?

Adult day center programs provide plenty of benefits for family caregivers, including the chance to take a break from caregiving duties.

The Importance Of Respite Care

When you're taking care of a family member with dementia 24/7, there are few opportunities to run errands or take action to support your own health and well-being. Family caregivers who try to do it all themselves often find themselves run down, exhausted, emotionally depleted, and prone to illness.

Making a point to schedule the things that you need to protect your own health can make a big difference in how long, and how well, you can continue caregiving. 

Use respite care time to schedule:

  • Preventative health care appointments
  • Mental and emotional support, such as time with a therapist to process stress and grief
  • Social support or recreational activities with friends
  • Dementia family caregiver support groups
  • Exercise programs or classes
  • A few hours with nothing on the calendar, so you can simply decompress, rest, and unwind

It's easier and more effective to schedule these vital support opportunities when they occur routinely, and adult day services fit this bill perfectly.

Learn more about how respite care benefits family caregivers, as well as those living with dementia.

Dementia Support Professionals Make A Big Difference

When caring for a loved one with dementia, it is incredibly helpful to have the support of professionals who understand the disorder. A geriatric care manager (who specializes in dementia), dementia caregiver consultant, or dementia behavior support consultant can help tremendously.

Adult day center staff often do as well. Having someone who knows dementia and knows your loved one specifically is priceless. They can help you:

  • Better understand, relate to, and communicate with your loved one
  • Improve your relationship
  • Developed personalized approaches to minimize resistance to personal care and activities of daily living
  • Identify and address your loved one's unmet needs, improving their mood and behavior
  • Minimize difficult situations and the headache and heartache they can cause.
  • Reduce health care costs in general by avoiding unnecessary problems
  • Minimize hospitalizations and complications
  • Determine how to support your loved one safely at home
  • Explore senior living solutions, and help you decide when and how to transition to a nursing home or memory care facility
  • Point you toward support services or financial resources that can help

Curious as to whether dementia support professional can help you? Contact Laura Herman for a no-cost, no-obligation conversation to explore how she may be able to support your loved one with dementia.

How To Find Adult Day Care Services

The next step is to find adult day services in your area. Do you think adult day care would be a good option? There are several ways to do so:

  • Eldercare Locator: Thisis a service provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging to connect older adults and their caregivers with local, state, and federal resources and supportive services.
  • Your local Area Agency on Aging: Theycan provide information about community services and programs for older adults in your area. Enter your zip code to find the AAA for your region.
  • 2-1-1: This number will provide easy access from your landline to get information about support resources or financial assistance in your area.
  • National Adult Day Services Association Locator: This platform is a tool that help you can find adult day care centers in your area, provided they are a member of NADSA.
  • The Alzheimer's Association can provide information about adult day services in your area. Check with your local chapter or use their Community Resource Finder.

What Kind Of Financial Assistance Is Available For Adult Day Centers?

Although looking at the cost of adult day services might feel overwhelming at first, it's important to realize that you can more than offset those costs in preventable health services. By keeping yourself healthy and your loved ones happy and functioning at their best, you can avoid unnecessary drama and trauma, and significantly delay nursing home costs. 

Even so, investing in senior care programs can be challenging, and sometimes financial assistance is necessary.

Does Insurance Cover Adult Day Services?

Adult daycare is considered a form of long-term care, and many long-term care insurance policies cover it. Traditional Medicare insurance doesn't cover adult day care, but some Medicare Advantage plans do. Ask your loved one's agent or check their policy for details.

Specific Medicaid programs, also known as Waivers, may cover adult day services in some areas. If your loved one has few assets and the very low income they may be eligible for Medicaid assistance. Check with your state Medicaid office for information about waivers that may cover adult day services in your area.

What Veterans Benefits Cover Adult Day Care?

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an Adult Day Health Care program for veterans who qualify. They assist with activities of daily living, and some offer medical services such as nursing, physical therapy, or speech therapy. Contact your VA social worker or case manager to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adult Day Centers

1. How much do dementia adult day care programs cost?

In 2021, the national average daily rate for adult day care was $80, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Calculator. Actual rates vary from program to program and region to region.

2. Do adult day centers provide personal care?

Many centers offer assistance with toileting or personal hygiene. Some may even offer special services, such as a beauty shop for those who don't like to wash their hair at home. Don't assume a center offers these services though – not all do.

3. How can I convince my parent to go to an adult day program?

Attending an adult day care center won't appeal to many people with dementia if you just ask them if they want to go. If you need help developing a personalized approach, talk with the day center staff or a dementia care professional.

Some approaches that often help older adults be more receptive to trying a program include:
-Present the program as an opportunity for them to volunteer or help out.
-Focus on your own feelings. Tell them you need to know that they are safe so you can rest and take care of yourself and that it would help you a lot if they would do this.
-Describe the health benefits for older adults who are aware of their diagnosis.
-Ask them to give it a fair trial. The first few sessions will likely be more stressful and awkward, so don't let those determine whether they like it. Ask them to try it for one month before deciding. If they don't want to continue after that, they wouldn’t have to. Knowing that it’s temporary and they have some say over their experience can make it easier to accept for some.

4. What should I do if my loved one doesn't like the day program?

Your loved one may not like any program at first. Anything new can be challenging, scary, and uncomfortable. Staying at home will feel less stressful and sound much more appealing to many people with Alzheimer's disease.

Expect it to take some time for your loved one to get used to the environment, staff, activities, and other participants. The Alzheimer's Association recommends trying a new program at least twice per week for a month before deciding to stop or switch programs.

It's also helpful to do as much footwork up front as possible to minimize the chance of having to start over with a new program


Questions To Ask an Adult Day Care Center Before Choosing a Program

Every adult day center offers a different structure and selection of services. These questions can help you figure out if a particular program can meet your needs.

Program Administration and Staffing

  1. How long has your adult day program been running?
  2. Is the day center licensed or certified by the state? (Not all states require it.)
  3. How many people are on staff? What is their average turnover? (Meaning, how long do they tend to work in the program. Lower turnover/longer longevity is better.)
  4. Is your staff trained or certified in senior care or memory care?
  5. What's the staff-to-participant ratio? Do you utilize volunteers?
  6. How are staff and volunteers vetted? Do they go through background checks?
  7. Does the day program cater to people with dementia? Does every participant have dementia?
  8. Can I tour the day center before making a decision?
  9. How will you help my loved ones acclimate to the program if they're reluctant (or downright resistant) to attend?
  10. Do you offer caregiver support services, such as caregiver support groups, regularly scheduled care meetings, or informal support around drop-off and pick-up times?

Adult Day Care Costs

  1. What's the cost of the program? Are there any potential additional charges?
  2. What is your cancellation policy? What happens if my loved one misses a session?
  3. Do you have any resources for financial assistance for those with low income?
  4. Do you accept long-term care insurance?

Personal Care and Health services

  1. Can your staff assist with personal care, such as assistance in the restroom or with incontinent care? Can they help my loved ones to eat if needed?
  2. Do you serve nutritious meals or snacks?
  3. Can you meet my loved one's specific dietary needs?
  4. Can you administer medication or provide medication reminders?
  5. Can you provide any kind of medical services, if needed? Can you support my loved one's medical needs?
  6. Can you accommodate my loved one's mobility needs?
  7. How do you handle health care or medical emergencies?
  8. How do you ensure a safe environment?

Therapeutic Activity Programming

  1. What kind of activities do you offer?
  2. Do you customize activities to participants' interests? How do you evaluate a participant's interests or abilities? How often are participants' needs and abilities re-evaluated?
  3. Do you include a mix of recreational activities and meaningful activities? How do you determine whether the activities are meaningful for each individual?
  4. Does the program always follow the same format, or are there special social events or field trips on occasion?
  5. How do you handle disruptive or challenging behavior?
  6. How can you tell if a participant is becoming overstimulated? How or when do you intervene?

Scheduling And Adult Day Care Coverage

  1. What is the program schedule?
  2. Does every participant attend daily?
  3. Can my loved one attend for a few hours only on a drop-in basis?
  4. Is evening care or weekend hours available?
  5. Will my loved ones attend with the same group each day, so they have a chance to create relationships with other participants?

Download a print-friendly version of these questions to keep notes on the adult day centers you evaluate.

Adult Day Care Centers Offer Many Benefits For People With Dementia And Their Family Members

Adult daycare can provide an array of invaluable benefits for individuals living with dementia and their family caregivers. Health care complications and crises can easily be reduced, which applies to caregivers and people with dementia. The intangible benefits – improving quality of life, well-being, and even relationship are priceless.

Choosing the right adult day care provider is essential for having the best experience, so do the footwork ahead of time to maximize the chance for a good fit the first time.

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Laura brings a rich history of family support, guidance, and education to Senior Strong. She deeply understands the challenges people with dementia and their caregivers face.
After years of living under the care of your parents and other family members, the time will arrive for you to reciprocate. At Senior Strong, you can show your loved ones just how much you value them.
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