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Adult Day Care: Good for Caregivers and the People They Care For

Many Americans who care for an older adult feel overwhelmed. Adult day care programs can help caregivers and the people they care for.

Taking a Break from Caregiving    TOP

While providing care to a loved one is a noble task, it also leaves many feeling overwhelmed, especially if the person needs care around the clock. Caregiving can lead to feelings of entrapment, depression, and hopelessness. So much so that researchers have been studying the impact of being a caregiver.

In one study, researchers from Pennsylvania State University evaluated whether adult day services affected caregiver stress and psychological well-being. They found that 3 months after sending a loved one to adult day care twice a week, caregivers experienced fewer feelings of overload and strain and significantly less depression and anger.

Benefits to Participants    TOP

Elders who participate in adult day care make friends. Day programs also provide structure and routine. Meaningful activities fill the hours and give participants something to talk about over dinner.

Family members involved in the Pennsylvania State University study reported that their relatives looked forward to going and that their behavior improved when they returned home. Specifically, they were more alert and less agitated.

Comprehensive Care    TOP

Although each center is different, many adult day care centers offer benefits such as:

  • Enrichment activities, such as music, dancing, and exercising
  • Crafts
  • Social events
  • Medical services, such as blood pressure checks and medication administration
  • Nutritious meals
  • Personal care services, such as bathing
  • Transportation to and from the center

Day Centers May Not Be for Everyone    TOP

While most older adults enjoy the day out, the programs may not suit everyone. Programs are tailored and paced to benefit adults with physical or cognitive limitations. An active senior, who still drives and handles the checkbook, might find a senior center more suitable.

Someone who has always been a loner may resist an adult day center's socialization. Patients with dementia may be fearful of going to a new location. Some centers will not accept clients who hit, kick, or punch other people. Some caregivers also worry that staff will not correctly interpret a loved one's needs, even after they have been discussed.

The cost of adult day programs vary and can be an obstacle for many. However, some non-profit organizations offer discounted rates and some states offer financial assistance programs.

What to Look For    TOP

The National Adult Day Services Association suggests that caregivers assess their and their loved one's needs before visiting a center. Keep the following questions in mind when looking for a program:

  • How many years has the center been in operation?
  • What are the hours of operation?
  • Is the center certified or accredited? Does it have a license?
  • Are transportation services offered?
  • What is the cost?
  • Is financial assistance available?
  • Is specialized care provided for conditions like memory loss?
  • Do participants have access to physical or occupational therapy?
  • What type of activities are provided?
  • Are meals and snacks included?

Lastly, any center you visit should make you and your loved one feel comfortable. The caregiver should feel confident in the center's ability to care for his or her loved one. The adult attending the facility should feel comfortable and stimulated by the activities it offers.


National Adult Day Services Association

Caregiver Action Network


Alzheimer's Association

Health Canada


Adult day care services. HelpGuide.org website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2016. Accessed October 11, 2016.

Benefits of adult day care. AdultDayCare.org website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 11, 2016.

Site visit checklist. National Adult Day Services Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 11, 2016.

Zarit SH, Stephens MA, Townsend A, Greene R. Stress reduction for family caregivers: effects of adult day care use. J Gerontol. 1998;53:S267-S277.

Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/23/2014

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