The Role of the Adult Day Center

Where can an aging adult go to socialize, laugh, sing, exercise, receive health care and eat well balanced, nutritious meals?

Many adult day centers offer these benefits and more for aging adults who require additional assistance during the day due to health reasons. Currently there are 4,600 adult day centers in the United States serving approximately 260,000 aging adults, younger persons with disabilities, and caregivers. Estimates show a 63% increase in the number of people serviced by adult day centers since 2002, reflecting the trend that Americans are aging and require professional support services for those with dementia or other cognitive impairments.

There are generally two types of adult day care centers: those that focus primarily on social interaction and those that offer medical care. Some centers, such as River House, offer both. According to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) the average participant that attends a day center is a 72-year-old female who lives with adult children or their spouse. A little over half of those utilizing day service centers have some form of cognitive impairment and more than half require assistance with at least two daily living activities.
At an adult day center, whether it is a social or medical model, the aging adult greatly benefits from active engagement. Medical model centers offer added benefits by providing health monitoring and individualized care.

Caregivers benefit from reliable, professional, compassionate services for their loved one. They offer respite time for the caregiver to recharge their batteries; the caregiver need not quit their jobs or neglect their own health. The result is better health and well-being for families. An adult day center also offers family support such as counseling and provides caregivers links to community resources and other service providers.

Lastly, the center can play a key role in the continuum of life for aging adults. After working for many years and easing into retirement, older adults may not engage with others as much as they used to. They may have to stop driving, and then find themselves staying home, isolated from others. Friends and family may die, or move way, leaving an older adult without the companionship they once had. A day center can offer a lonely person a new place to meet people and engage with others. Evidence shows that participants who regularly attend a day center show improved quality of life.

The bottom line is that adult day care centers offer a cost effective alternative to other long-term care options and allow aging adults to stay engaged in their communities and at home with their families.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Donna Spellman, MS, Executive Director, River House Adult Day Center. She can be reached at 203-629-0079