Adult Day Care can be one of the most useful resources for you as a caregiver, especially if you are still working full- or part-time. As we know, the most important thing for you is to have some time apart from your loved one, to stimulate your mind and body, and to rest from your caregiving duties. Caregivers who take on too much responsibility and overextend themselves have a much higher risk of illness, weight-gain, depression, and sudden death.
While it might seem scary to place your loved one in a group during the day, it can actually be a beneficial thing to her as well as to you. It can be a good intermediate step before a nursing home, and the use of adult day centers lets many people with Alzheimer's or dementia stay at home for a longer period of time before entering 24-hour care. In addition, not only will your loved one be able to participate in activities with the group and be stimulated mentally and physically, but she will also get what we know is a huge help in keeping the mind as healthy as possible: social interaction. Allowing your loved one to be social is great not only for the mind but for her well-being… she can relate to her peers, and may very well find that the days are quite enjoyable.
According to the National Adult Day Services Association, there are about 4,000 adult day centers across the country - so you should be able to find one that fits your loved one's needs very well. A great place to start your search is www.ElderCareLink.com - they have pre-screened all kinds of services from day care to home health providers to nursing homes, so you just type in what kind of help you need and they give you some recommendations in your area. Once you have a few options, take these tips into consideration as you pick the right day center for you and your loved one:
- Ask around. If you're involved in a support group, ask the leader or some of the other caregivers about centers they've found helpful. You can also talk to your elder law attorney or geriatric care manager about places they would recommend; they will likely know from the experiences of other clients what some good options are.
- Get specific. There are many centers that are specifically geared toward dementia- or Alzheimer's-diagnosed patients. You can decide if this is what you want, or if you would rather have him join a general-elderly group.
- Look at your state's guidelines. Your loved one's center should meet, if not exceed, your state's requirements. Ask them where they stand on this, and if they are certified or licensed in your state.
- Find out about pricing. While the average cost for day care is between $50-$60, some centers have a sliding fee scale depending on income. A few centers rely solely on government funds.
- Keep transportation in mind. Many adult day centers either provide transportation for free or for a fee. Make sure you take this into consideration, especially if you can't provide all transportation for your loved one.
- Relate to some of the participants in the program. Do the participants seem happy? Do they relate well to the volunteers at the center? Keep in mind, especially if you're in an Alzheimer's-specific group, you may hear phrases such as “I want to go home,” from some of the participants, however this is a common phrase to hear even if they are in their homes. Look instead at the general well-being of the group. Are they clean? Do they seem content? Are they kept busy and stimulated? How many participants is each volunteer responsible for?
- When are they open? Make sure to ask what days they are open, and what the hours of operation are. For example, some groups only operate until 3 p.m., and if you are still at work until 5, you may want to keep looking. In addition, some centers are open Saturdays, while others are not.
- Take a look at the schedule and services. Find out what activities they do at the center. Some places even have speech or physical therapy sessions every day, so that may be something you want to look for. Make sure you know about all the services they provide: do they provide assistance with activities of daily living, meals, counseling, health assessments? Figure out what's most important for you and your family and keep that in mind as you look.
There are lots of reasons to get your loved one involved with a group of her peers, and this is one of the best ways to do it. Adult day centers are a welcomed reprieve to hundreds of thousands of caregivers and care recipients. With the right center, your loved one will feel right at home.