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What is Adult Day Care and How Much Does It Cost?

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If your loved one lives with you, you might wonder how they can stay safe and engaged while you are working outside of the home. Similarly, if your loved one lives at home alone, you might worry they are lonely or unsafe during the majority of the day. Your loved one might not need around-the-clock care at a senior care facility or nursing facility, such as assisted living or a nursing home. You also might not want to pay to bring in a home care caregiver for 8 hours each day. Fortunately, you can look at other care options in your local community, such as adult day care services.


What is adult day care?


Adult day care services, sometimes called “adult day programs” or simply “adult day services” are non-residential options for older adults who could benefit from additional oversight, support, social interaction, and engagement during the day. These services typically include a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snacks, as well as events or programs throughout the day. Family members drop off seniors in the morning and then return to pick them up by the time the day services conclude. It’s a wonderful option for seniors who are lonely, unsafe, or could use more support during the day but do not necessarily want to use a caregiver for those 6-10 hours of the day.

It’s important to note what types of services your local adult day care provides. Most do not provide extensive skilled medical care, such as wound management, IV medications, or other complex condition management. Instead, most offer verbal or physical assistance with bathroom assistance, medication reminders, and cues with eating and safety.


What are the benefits of adult day programs?


Seniors who attend adult day programs are supported throughout the day, which helps them be safer and more engaged. They are able to create new connections and practice socialization in a group setting with friends and team members, which can help them feel less lonely.

For family caregivers, an adult day program provides much-needed respite care and peace of mind. Caregivers don’t have to worry about their loved one’s well-being; they know they are safe and cared for while they are at work, running errands, or simply taking a break.


What are the hours?


Each adult day care center will set their own operating hours. However, it is most common for these services to run 5 days per week, typically Monday through Friday. Business Hours can begin around 8am or 9am and run until 5pm or 6pm.


Who can attend an adult day program?


Seniors who attend adult day services vary greatly in abilities and preferences. Typically, programs require that participants can transfer out of a chair safely with a one-person assist (no hoyer lifts). It is also common for an adult day program to require an assessment before determining if a senior can participate.

Adult day care programs serve many different types of adults. Some programs cater specifically to older adults, while others focus on adults living with physical or developmental disabilities. Seniors with memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, can be quite successful in adult day programs. However, once the person is no longer safe to themselves or others, the program team will work with family members to find another solution that will ensure everyone is safe and healthy.


Are there different types of adult day care? 


One of the things that makes adult day programs so interesting is that each is quite unique. Each adult day care program has its own rules and policies, which means that while your loved one might not find a good fit at one adult day care, they could find a better match at the program on the other side of town.

Some types of adult day care serve adults with disabilities, while others focus solely on seniors. However, all are monitored and regulated by state public health departments.


What services are included?


Again, adult day care programs vary from place to place, but most commonly offer team members who are there to assist with the activities of daily living and personal care tasks, including medication reminders. Participants eat breakfast and lunch together, sometimes prepared onsite by team members. Other times, agencies might cater out meals to local businesses or through a local congregate meal program. Team members are there to keep residents safe and engaged, leading fun programs and social activities throughout the day that might include entertainment, games, or create arts workshops.


Are the programs regulated in some way?


Adult day care centers are regulated by individual state health departments. They must meet certain requirements in order to offer eldercare services as well as to continue offering those services in good standing.


How can I find one near me?


Many adult day programs are run through local senior service agencies, so starting with your senior services department in your town or village is a wonderful start. Sometimes, adult day programs run out of city senior centers, churches, or even senior living communities. You can also search for adult day programs through your local Area Agency on Aging.


How much do adult day cares cost?


Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care survey reports that adult day services average about $74 per day, or $1,690 per month. Check to see if the adult day program you are researching allows you to only pay for the days you bring in your loved one or if they require a specific daily commitment.

Typically, Medicare does not pay for adult day care costs. However, Medicaid can provide some assistance with adult day care service costs, typically through a waiver. Individual states can authorize financial assistance through a Home Care Based Services waiver for eligible participants. These waivers will pay the adult day care service providers through Medicaid, greatly offsetting the costs for the seniors and their family members.

Haley Burress

A senior care and caregiving expert with 15+ years of experience working in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, independent living, and memory care as well as adult day services and home care. 


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