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Alzheimer's Disease and Adult Day Care

No matter how efficiently you have adapted to the role of caregiver for an Alzheimer's disease patient, eventually you are going to need a break. Relief from caring for someone with Alzheimer's is essential to your emotional well-being and your relationships with your family, friends, and the person you are caring for. Taking an occasional break is also essential to maintaining your capability as a caregiver. For some caregivers, a nearby family member can step in and provide the care, but for other caregivers that option is not available. In these cases, adult day care may be the way to go.

Adult day care provides daily structured programs in a community setting with activities and health-related and rehabilitation services for older adults who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a protective environment. Many centers provide services to clients who have a broad range of conditions and disorders, while others specialize in particular disorders such as Alzheimer's.

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Care is provided during daytime hours, and the individual returns home for the night. These centers not only enable older people to live at home, thus maintaining a degree of independence, but they are also beneficial to a primary caregiver in need of respite from the everyday responsibilities of looking after a person with Alzheimer's. Many adult day-care programs also provide transportation to and from the center.

Adult day care is typically offered at a special-purpose facility or as a service at another type of care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted-living residence.

Adult day care services usually include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
  • Meals.
  • Social activities (such as crafts, music, movies, community projects, intergenerational programs).
  • Transportation, fellowship, support, and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, and grooming.
  • Medically related services provided by health care professionals, including registered nurses and therapists. 
  • General and social activities provided by social workers and other staff workers.

Adult day care also provides opportunities for education, and ideally, nurtures older adults' hobbies and interests.

When deciding to investigate adult day care options, the first step is to locate centers in your area. Local churches and senior centers generally can provide information on adult day-care centers. In addition, some assisted-living and nursing home facilities offer adult day-care services.

Once the area centers have been located, call the centers and ask them to mail you information about the center's application process, eligibility requirements, sample menus, and activity calendars.

Once you have received the information, consider:

  • How long the center has been in operation.
  • Who owns or sponsors the center.
  • Hours of operation.
  • Days of operation.
  • Whether they offer transportation to and from the center.

Once you have looked over the information, the next step is to schedule a tour of the center for both yourself and the person you are caring for.Observations and questions that can be made or asked include:

  • Is the staff friendly?
  • What is the daily cost?
  • Will insurance cover any services?
  • Ask to see sample menus over a period of several weeks.
  • Is the center clean and free of odor?
  • What is expected of the caregiver?
  • Is there a place to isolate sick persons?
  • What are the credentials of the staff?
  • Is the facility wheelchair accessible?
  • Do volunteers help out?
  • What is the staff-to-client ratio? (Six clients per staff member is a good ratio).
  • May you have a list of references?

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