What do you do if your mother needs help getting in and out of her wheelchair and she’s afraid she might have to live in a nursing home? What do you do if your father-in-law’s eyesight is failing and he’s frustrated and won’t leave the house by himself? What do you do if your aunt seems to be growing more confused? The last time you visited, she’d left the stove on all morning. One of the options you might want to consider in each of the above is adult day care.
What is adult day care? Adult day care programs offer social and recreational activities and health services in a group setting for people who can’t be left alone during the day. They offer family members who provide care a chance to take a needed break or to go to work with the confidence that their relative is well cared for.
There are several different types of adult day care programs. Some are meant for older people with limited abilities who need help with ordinary tasks and activities. Others are designed for people with special medical needs.
The atmosphere and quality varies, too. Some programs are in brand-new facilities. Others are in nursing homes, hospitals, church basements, or home- like settings. Some programs provide transportation to and from the center (often for an additional fee). Others serve breakfast or dinner, in addition to hot lunch and a snack.
What happens at an adult day care center? Al-hough each program is different, adult day care centers generally offer a chance to socialize. Most centers are friendly, inviting places. Common social activities include holiday parties, book discussions, reminiscing groups, and pet days.
Adult day care centers offer a regular program of care. Typically, people attend adult day care for all or part of the day, three to five days a week. What about medical and health services? Most centers have a nurse on duty. Medical services usually range from checking blood pressure and giving medications to providing physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
A good center will offer supervised recreation. These activities may include singing, dancing, armchair volleyball, painting, and short field trips. Along with these activities good centers will offer general assistance, i.e., help with daily activities, such as eating, transferring or dressing.
What do these programs cost? Adult day care can cost anywhere from a few dollars a day in subsidized programs to over $100 a day. On average, adult day care runs about $40 a day. Care for Alzheimer’s patients is usually more expensive. In some cases, state subsidies or sliding fee scales are offered to make care more affordable. Insurance and Medicaid may also cover some adult day care costs.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether adult day care makes sense for you and your family.
Are care-giving activities so time-consuming that you’re experiencing major conflicts at work or with other family members? Do you need help with short-term care because your family member has just been discharged from a hospital? Is your relative
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regaining independence after an acute illness or injury? Do you feel uncomfortable leaving your family member at home alone?
A social worker or other staff member at the adult day care center will probably want to do an assessment of your relative. Some programs also require a medical exam. Keep in mind that not all centers accept people with Alzheimer’s, while others specialize in individuals with Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions.
Before your relative enters an adult day care program, be sure to kick the tires. Visit the center together. If you have more than one option, spend time at each center before making your decision. Not everyone immediately embraces the idea of adult day care. If your relative is hesitant, suggest trying the program for a short period of time - a trial run.
Adult day care offers many benefits. It can mean a chance for your family member to be more independent, more involved with other people, and more active. For you, it can mean a welcome break from care giving tasks and the peace of mind of knowing that someone you love is well cared for while you handle other responsibilities.