Does a patient with Alzheimer's need a special kind of program?
Any daycare provides caregiver respite. But the ideal type features services tailored to people with Alzheimer's. Some adult daycare programs specialize in people with dementias of all kinds and stages, while others specialize more narrowly in early-stage Alzheimer's. In these dementia-specific programs, you're most likely to find tailored activities and staff who are specially trained in the disease.
A 1991 study found that Alzheimer's-specific daycare tended to provide more support for families and a greater emphasis on therapeutic recreation (rather than on clinical or rehab services) than general adult daycare. Be aware, however, that there's no special licensing required for a facility to call itself an "Alzheimer's/dementia daycare."
Adult daycare is especially useful in the early stage of Alzheimer's, when the afflicted person retains some good cognitive and social skills and might find it easier to become acclimated to the center and people there. There's also evidence that early stimulation of the type provided by adult day centers can slow cognitive decline.
Daycare is also useful in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease, when the burden of care becomes greater and caregiver burnout is a strong risk. People in the final stage of the disease tend to be unable to manage daily care tasks without help and are often nonverbal; when the burden of 24/7 care completely overwhelms, it may be a nursing home rather than respite care that the caregiver really needs.