Adult day services might be the best-kept secret in eldercare–a way to share the care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other conditions requiring supervision and structured activities. But the 3rd week each September has been designated to bring recognition to this highly valuable service. This year, it’s is September 16-22.
Through the social contact, nutritious meals, supervision, care, and activities provided, participants often experience less depression and anxiety. They also often retain more language, reasoning, and organizational skills, as well as better mobility and less risk of falls. In addition, those who attend day programs are better able to handle day-to-day tasks and sleep more soundly at night. They also generally exhibit fewer of the challenging behaviors and symptoms of dementia, making it easier for their family members to care for them at home.
There are both medical and social models of adult day services programs. The main goals of social model programs like Friendship Center include maintaining maximum quality of life, dignity, and independence for all involved. With activities like gardening, sing-alongs, adaptive exercise, bingo, arts & crafts, live music and dance performances, and celebrations of special events like holidays and birthdays, participants stay mentally active and emotionally engaged.
The problem with adult day programs is that there are not enough of them! A recent study showed there were only 5,685 day programs nationwide. In comparison, 15,600 nursing homes provide care to 1.4 million older adults.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with the disease. Continual medical advances are making for longer lifespans and as this is a degenerative disease, the longer people live, the more likely they are to develop it. Dementia is not only a concern for those with the disease, but also for their caregivers. In a recent Alzheimer’s Association study, 35% of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias reported that their health had become worse directly due to their care responsibilities, compared to 19% of those caring for elders without dementia.
With adult day services, caregivers can attend to their own health concerns and personal hobbies or social activities supporting their psychological health. They can then return to their caregiving duties with renewed patience and compassion. Many caregivers benefit from regular support group meetings as well as resources, individual counseling, and periodic educational presentations provided by adult day programs.
Not only is respite vital in maintaining the health and well-being of caregivers, but the support of day programs greatly increases families’ economic ability to care for their loved ones at home. Adult day services offer a cost-effective solution for these families, often delaying or altogether preventing the need for expensive in-home care or placement in long-term care facilities.