Guide to Adult Day Care

senior physical therapy
Therapy is offered at many adult day centers.

There are more than 4,000 adult day centers nationwide, offering services to more than 150,000 seniors. Such day care centers have been around for more than twenty years, but as the population ages, they are becoming more popular, particularly for seniors with specialized health needs. Learning more about the different types of facilities and the services they offer can help interested patrons decide if this type of service center fits into their own family situation.

Finding Care Facilities

Day care centers provide services for older adults who are no longer able to be on their own at home all day long, and centers are also an option for people needing organized socialization opportunities. The trick is to find the right adult day care to provide the services needed in any given situation. There are a number of organizations that can help narrow the search.

National Adult Day Services Association

The National Adult Day Services Association provides education on, and resources for, adult day centers. It helps caregivers understand the services to look for in a center, the estimated daily cost; the association is also a useful resource for updated news articles and information.


The Department of Health and Human Resources and the Administration on Aging have a comprehensive Eldercare site. It provides a locator to help find adult care centers along with a host of other senior services.

National Council On Aging

The National Council on Aging has a wealth of resources to help family members and seniors stay up to date on advances in senior services, matters affecting mature adults, and legal issues. The council also provides a springboard to advocacy efforts.

Family Caregiver Alliance

Few understand the special requirements and concerns of caring for an aging or ill loved one like the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Statistics indicate that the typical caregiver is a married woman in her mid-40s who has children living at home, as well as a full-time job. On top of this, these caregivers spend an average 20 additional hours weekly spent taking care of elderly relatives. Support of caregivers is a necessary component to ensure the good mental and physical health of both the recipient of care and the provider.

The Family Caregiver Alliance offers an extensive list of resources, an online support circle, and current articles to help a caregiver in any situation.

Types of Facilities

There are three principal types of day care centers for seniors:

  • Health Centers: These facilities focus primarily on seniors with ongoing health needs, either from age, accidents, disease, or disability. Staffed by nurses, doctors, and trained volunteers, these centers can offer general health care such as medication dispensation, blood pressure screenings, vision acuity testing, and assistance with other basic health care needs.
  • Therapeutic Centers: These day care facilities offer more intensive therapy treatments for seniors, particularly to help seniors adjust to or overcome disabilities from strokes, heart attacks, or physical ailments. Daily therapy sessions and unique treatments can help seniors overcome challenges in a friendly, open environment.
  • Alzheimer's Centers: These centers are specialized to focus on the unique needs of Alzheimer's patients or seniors with similar dementia conditions. Carefully trained staff members not only help patients adjust to their new state of mind, but can offer support to family members as well.

Services Offered

woman knitting showing adult day care
Creative activities are important components of senior care.

Each individual day center offers slightly different services based on its particular staff, the needs of the community, and the focus of the center. Basic services offered at most adult day facilities include:

  • Social activities such as games, crafts, art or music lessons, and continuing education courses.
  • Nutritious meals and snacks individualized for specific dietary needs.
  • Exercise classes personalized for individual levels of activity and ability.
  • Counselors or support groups for family members and caregivers.
  • Health screenings and monitoring for basic senior health concerns.

Specialized facilities naturally offer different services geared towards the needs of the seniors who frequent them. When looking for a day center to cater to specific needs, consider consulting a physician, therapist, or senior community center director for recommendations.

Cost of Services

Approximately 80 percent of senior day care centers are non-profit organizations, but the costs of running the facilities are substantial. Depending on the types of services needed and the size of the facility, costs range from $25 to $70 per day, which is significantly lower than the cost of a private home visit by a nurse or therapist. Medicare does not typically cover adult day care, but private insurance policies may be able to assist with the costs. Some centers also offer payment plans or financial aid to qualified seniors.

Choosing a Day Facility

The process of choosing a senior day care facility is just as meticulous as choosing a preschool for a child. Because the patient may be at the facility for several hours each day, it is important to find a center that is friendly, welcoming, and capable of meeting that individual's care needs. When investigating day care centers, consider the following:

  • Is the facility clean, free from unnecessary obstructions, and easily accessible?
  • Do staff members regularly assess the changing needs of clients to offer personalized services?
  • Are referrals available for additional services and treatments that the center does not provide?
  • Are the days and hours of operation compatible with the patient and caregiver's needs?
  • Is the staff able to prepare meals and snacks for special dietary needs, or must food be provided?
  • Is the center safe and secure, with precautions to prevent unauthorized visitors or accidents?
  • Does the staff include necessary professionals such as therapists, dietitians, nurses, and counselors?
  • Does the center comply with all state and national regulations for a senior care facility?

Most centers offer brochures, tours, and other information to prospective clients. Feel free to visit the facility, ask questions, and consult with a physician or therapist for a recommendation if desired.

Benefits of Day Services

There are many benefits to choosing senior day care centers. They provide a social outlet for clients, allowing them to bond with other individuals with similar needs and keep busy with fun activities that keep their minds sharp and creativity booming. At the same time, the centers give a respite to the caregivers, allowing them to work outside the home, run errands, or simply have time away from the demands of full-time caregiving without the guilt of institutionalizing a loved one or leaving her in a less than ideal situation. Many cities, particularly those with aging populations, offer neighborhood facilities, providing a local resource as an alternative to potentially far away facilities at a regional center or hospital.

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Guide to Adult Day Care