Adult Daycare for Dementia Patients

By American Geriatrics Society (AGS)

If your loved one isn’t yet ready for an assisted living facility or a nursing home but you don’t feel that your situation is conducive to providing 24/7 in-home care, adult daycare is for you.

Adult daycare for people with dementia and its newer cousin, adult day healthcare, can be a real godsend for a two-career family that simply can’t provide in-home care during work hours and doesn’t like the idea of leaving their loved one alone at home all day alone or with an aide.

Adult daycare provides some real benefits for dementia patients as well, giving them the chance to socialize and participate in enjoyable activities with their peers in a safe and controlled professional environment.

Adult daycare evolved from the child daycare model, but it should never be confused with childcare. These programs are geared toward adults, with adult activities tailored to meet the capabilities of the participants and an atmosphere designed for adults. Adult daycare programs are usually open five days a week during traditional business hours.

These programs are designed to meet the needs of both functionally and cognitively impaired older adults, though programs can vary depending on the population that they target. In other words, some daycare programs are designed for patients with mild to moderate dementia, whereas others cater to the needs of those with more advanced dementia.

Some adult daycare facilities provide transportation. Most programs provide at least lunch meals on the premises as well as some support services such as medication reminders and blood pressure monitoring. In addition to providing respite for the caregiver, these programs provide enjoyable and appropriate social activities and engagement for those with memory disorders.

Having AD or dementia doesn’t mean you no longer have a need to feel meaningful or socially connected to others. Attendance at an adult day program can provide a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the morning for your loved one.

Dementia and AD patients are often leery of change, so you may encounter some resistance when you first pose the idea to your loved one. Acknowledge that they have some healthy skepticism, and reassure them that you’ll preview the program together. If you ask whether they want to go, you’re almost certain to get a no. You would be wiser to ask if they would prefer to preview the “wellness center, senior center, or activity center” on Monday or Wednesday, thereby giving them a choice and sense of control but not the final decision about whether to go.

Keep in mind that it may not be necessary for your loved one to know that he isn’t formally enrolled in the program. You can tell him that he is attending on a volunteer basis. The staff of the day center is probably familiar with this approach and will be willing to acknowledge him as a helper or volunteer rather than a paid subscriber.

As a transition, you may want to start off with attendance just twice a week and over time increase the number of day your loved one attends. After you initiate enrollment, try to stick with it for a few weeks before quitting. After your loved one settles in, makes a few friends, and starts participating in the activities, he may begin bugging you to go to daycare even on the weekends.

Adult day healthcare programs offer more comprehensive care than regular adult day programs for patients who require specific medical or psychiatric supervision. They provide services, such as on-site nurses, social workers, physical therapists, and other medical and caregiving professionals, in addition to the social activities, meals, and transportation services offered by regular adult daycare.

The nice thing about these programs is that they don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. Activities are tailored to your loved one’s interests, needs, and abilities. One patient who has mobility problems may do crafts whereas other patients who are more mobile participate in a light exercise class. Another patient may visit with a nurse for a blood pressure check and then join his fellow patients for a snack or musical entertainment.

But the most important function adult daycare serves is that it eliminates the problem of social isolation that can overwhelm a person with a memory disorder who stays at home all the time. These places offer so many enjoyable planned activities, from crafts to music to exercise games, that your loved one is sure to find something to enjoy.