4 Benefits of Adult Day Care for Your Older Loved One

Cerita Miller is no stranger to stressed-out family caregivers.

“I just need a break,” she often hears from daughters, sons, and spouses looking to register their parent or partner in her organization’s Senior’s Day Program. A registered nurse, Miller is the president and CEO of The Lighthouse Retreat, the home-care and adult-day-care agency she owns in Ajax, Ontario.

More than 1 in 3 unpaid caregivers of Canadians receiving home care feel angry, depressed, or otherwise distressed about their care-providing duties. If you’re the primary caregiver for someone you love, you know how exhausting this role can be. That’s one reason you’ll want occasional time off.

Whether you need to rejuvenate, go to work, take care of a personal need, or go on a trip, you can get short-term caregiving relief through respite care. There are different types of respite care—one of which is adult day services.

Who Can Benefit from an Adult Day Program?

senior day care with black nurse Home Downsizing in TorontoOlder adults needing hands-on care in a social environment with activities may benefit from an adult day program. “Great candidates are adults who need an opportunity to get out of their homes and receive more cognitive stimulation,” said Miller.

She recommends adult day centres to “those who have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, who have brain injuries, those who are frail seniors who are spending a lot more time at home with minimal interaction.” In The Lighthouse Retreat’s Senior’s Day Program, Miller estimates that 95% of participants have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which she said is typical for adult day cares.

Enrolling in adult day services may be wise if your elderly family member:

  • Is frail, has mild to moderate cognitive impairment, or has another medical condition requiring frequent care,
  • Has lost the ability to structure their daily activities,
  • Feels isolated and lonely and craves social interaction,
  • Is anxious or depressed and needs emotional support, or
  • Has physical limitations making them feel their home is no longer safe and accessible.

Though most participants live in place at home, Miller said, “we’ve had clients who are in long-term care who the family has felt that they need a little bit more one on one in a smaller group setting.” She said other participants live in retirement residences that don’t provide memory care.

Benefits of Adult Day Care

It improves their physical, mental, and social health.

“We have planned, structured activities that focus on memory care, sensory activities, and exercise and fall prevention classes,” said Miller. She said the program’s stimulating social activities increase self-esteem and help participants build relationships.

They benefit from being with similar individuals.

For example, at The Lighthouse Retreat, participants attend group sessions with others who are at the same level of memory deficit. Those with early-onset dementia go on certain days, while those needing more care go on other days.

Miller said this helps their clients “better facilitate and formulate relationships, and better engage in the activities. The feedback that we’ve gotten from the neurologists is that they’ve really seen some stability in the progression of the disease.”

They get respite care in a safe, secure, supervised environment.

“Our program runs from nine to three Monday to Friday,” said Miller, adding that you can choose the number of weekdays that you’d like your mom, dad, or spouse to attend while you go to work or spend time alone or with other family.

“Every day is very different in our program,” said Miller. Activities range from arts and crafts, to music therapy, to shuffleboard or bingo, to baking, to spiritual devotions. Participants enjoy coffee, tea, a nutritious lunch, and snacks. They can also receive personal support, such as toileting or medication assistance.

They may get to live at home and in their community for longer.

Miller said adult day care combines well with home care to help people age in place. “It ends up being cheaper, in some cases,” she said, “for [people] to use this framework, rather than having to be in a retirement home.”

Adult day care “does help them to integrate better and socialize better,” she said, “rather than just working one on one with [a home-care worker] for an eight-hour block” while family caregivers are at work. Also, adult day services are less expensive by the hour than private home care.

How Much Does Senior Day Care Cost?

senior man surfing net touchpad while his wife is text messaging mobile phone home scaled Home Downsizing in Toronto

You can lower your fees by registering your loved one in an adult day program subsidized by the Ontario government.

With a medical referral (e.g., from the family doctor), you can apply for respite care through a publicly funded adult day program. A coordinator from the province’s Home and Community Care Support Services will assess your family member’s needs and, if necessary, refer them to an adult day program.

However, this process can take months, said Miller, partly because government-funded day-care centres usually have long waitlists.

To get in faster, you may want to contact private services. “For most private day programs, the waitlists are not as long,” said Miller. Private services may also provide more activities, extra care, and more specialized programming (e.g., for people with Alzheimer’s disease).

“A private adult day program may cost you between $65 to over $100 a day,” said Miller. She added that families can claim the expenses as tax deductions and that some insurance policies cover the costs.

Is Adult Day Care the Right Choice?

Adult day care is not for people “at risk to themselves or to others,” said Miller. That includes those whose cognitive impairment is severe.

“For some people with dementia, they are what we call ‘exit seekers,’” she explained. “They are constantly trying to get out of the home. It becomes a danger.” If your family member needs 24-hour care, a better option may be a long-term care home or a retirement community with security and memory care.

Seek Help Soon

Whether your family member keeps living at home or moves into a care facility, it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later.

“I strongly encourage families,” said Miller, “if your loved ones are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or they have a brain injury, or you see their cognition is declining, don’t wait for it to get worse, or for you as a care provider to become overwhelmed, before you start accessing service.”

When clients with later-stage dementia enroll, she said, “oftentimes it is harder for them to get them into the program. If we’re able to get them in from the beginning, it does make a difference to stabilize that disease.”

For you as a caregiver, that means less stress. For your family member with dementia, earlier admission can mean a richer quality of life. Whatever the reason for attending, these programs can be fun and invigorating. Is adult day care right for your parent or spouse?

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