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Your guide to adult day care

by Maryalene LaPonsie

Love your parents but looking for some respite? An adult day care arrangement may be the right choice for your family.

The term 'day care center' may bring to mind images of children playing on brightly colored playground equipment. However 4,600 centers nationwide provide care to 150,000 individuals who likely won't be climbing on the monkey bars any time soon. These are adult day care centers that cater to the needs of older individuals and their caregivers.

"This is an approach where a person is taken to a facility for a portion of their day," said Gina Kaurich, a credentialed Professional Geriatric Case Manager and Executive Director of Client Care Services for FirstLight HomeCare. "It's a really good option to have care in a group or social setting."

Adult day cares often operate during regular business hours, five days a week although some may also have night and weekend hours. Caregivers often arrange to have their loved ones cared for at the facility while they take a respite break.

Types of adult day care

According to the National Adult Day Services Association, there are three types of adult day cares available:

  • Social. Provides meals, recreation and some health related services
  • Medical. Provides social services as well as more intensive medical care
  • Specialized. Offers services to a specific patient population such as those diagnosed with dementia or developmental disabilities

The association reports all facilities, regardless of their type, generally offer a standard suite of services. These include transportation, meals, therapeutic activities, social events and personal care services.

How to choose the right adult day care

Caregivers should exercise the same caution and due diligence when selecting an adult day care as they would when choosing a day care facility for a child.

The NADSA recommends caregivers begin by evaluating their own needs and those of their loved one. For example, social activities may be particularly important for an elderly parent who lives alone. Meanwhile, an individual with dementia or special health concerns may need a facility that offers a lower ratio of caregivers to clients.

"You want to see if things are included like breakfast or lunch," said Kaurich. "Is there any possibility for a person to lie down if needed? What do they do when someone is ill?"

Kaurich recommends caregivers not only inquire into the ratio of caregivers but also into how many of those receiving care at the facility have limited functionality and cognitive impairments.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also recommends caregivers ask the following questions when touring an adult day care facility:

  1. How many years has the center been in operation?
  2. Is the center licensed by the state?
  3. What is the cost? Is financial assistance available?
  4. What sort or training and/or credentials does the staff have?
  5. What types of activities are offered?
  6. Is access to medical or personal care services available?
  7. How are behavioral problems addressed?

In addition, individuals should contact their state's licensing or health department to determine whether any substantiated complaints have been made against the facility.

Paying for adult day care

The 2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs found the average daily cost for adult day care rose 4.5 percent from 2010 to 2011. The survey, conducted by MetLife, reported the national average for the service was $70 per day last year.

Laura Rossman, member of the Board of Directors for the American Society on Aging says, in most cases, caregivers must use private resources to pay for adult day care. However, Medicaid may pay for some adult day care services through community based programs, and other community organizations may also be able to help.

"If a caregiver finds themselves in a position where outside help is necessary and the financial resources aren't available, they should contact local aging resources to see what is available through state programs," said Rossman.

Some long term care insurance policies may also pay for adult day care, but these policies must be purchased in advance of the need. Other options for paying for adult day care may include accelerated life insurance benefits and reverse mortgages.