Adult Day Care for Someone With Alzheimer's

The benefits of day services usually outweigh the qualms that caregivers and older adults may have about them
Alzheimer's adult day care

Adult day care is a form of respite care that's provided outside the home by professionals (as opposed to in-home respite care). It's designed to benefit both the person using the services and, especially in the case of Alzheimer's disease, that person's caregiver.

An adult day care center, or adult day center, provides structured activities and therapy in a safe, supportive environment to adults who need mental and social stimulation. Typical day care clients have lost a degree of independence due to normal aging, a medical crisis, or a chronic condition such as Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, but they live alone or with a caregiver. Half of all users have cognitive impairment. As the name suggests, it's a day service, not a housing option.

Whereas senior centers tend to cater to a healthier, more mobile, and more independent clientele, adult day care programs generally offer services that are more intensive. Some specialize in Alzheimer's disease, and staff members have special education and/or training in working with geriatric clients and in managing behaviors characteristic of a disease like Alzheimer's.

For the elder with Alzheimer's, adult day care offers:

For the Alzheimer's caregiver, adult day care provides:

  • Stress relief, lessened depression
  • Predictable hours of relief in order to attend to personal needs, run errands, and release stress
  • The ability to continue caring for a patient at home
  • Cost savings over mo re expensive in-home care
  • Reduced guilt because the patient's independence is supported
  • An improved mood in the patient, making care giving easier
  • Possible family counseling or training through the center, to help cope

Programs run from several hours to a full day. Participants may attend daily, a few times a week, weekly, or just for special activities. Weekend and evening care are less common, although this is changing as demand for adult day care rises. (All options vary by center.)

What happens at adult day care?

Programs typically include organized and supervised hands-on activities that may involve:

  • Stimulating recreation (such as crafts, group conversation)
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Physical therapy
  • Access to a library
  • Entertainment (such as music, movies)
  • Outings to museums, parks, or other local attractions
  • Support groups and counsel ing
  • Socialization activities
  • Personal and nursing care (including help in keeping up with medications)
  • Meals (usually lunch) and snacks

Activities are usually customized to individual needs and abilities, but at the same time, there's an emphasis on group participation. The setting is often homelike and comforting.

Additionally, some programs offer medically oriented care for patients who need it (administering medication or caring for basic medical or personal needs, such as podiatry services). Some offer counseling and educational services to caregivers and families.

Some adult day programs are connected with children's day care centers. An advantage to this arrangement is that intergenerational connections that are made. A potential disadvantage that some researchers have found is that the adults can feel that they're being treated like children themselves, if the activities are largely child-centered.

Does a patient with Alzheimer's need a special kind of program?

Any day care provides caregiver respite. But the ideal type features services tailored to people with Alzheimer's. Some adult day care 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 day care tended to provide more support for families and a greater emphasis on therapeutic recreation (rather than on clinical or rehab services) than general adult day care. Be aware, however, that there's no special licensing required for a facility to call itself an "Alzheimer's/dementia day care."

Who is eligible for Alzheimer’s day care?

Adult day care services are typically available to people with Alzheimer's who are living in their own homes (or with a caregiver) and who:

  • Are in the early- to mid-stage of the disease
  • Don't require constant one-on-one assistance
  • Have some mobility (most programs allow a self-propelled wheelchair)
  • Are continent (sometimes just bowel, sometimes bowel and bladder)
  • Are not physically or verbally abusive
  • Do not wander excessively

Depending on the program, you may need:

  • Documentation of a doctor's diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's
  • Proof the person lives within the community (for state-sponsored programs)
  • An intake examination by the staff to determine eligibility according to its own requirements

Adult day care 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.

Day care 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.

Can both spouses go together?

Many day programs accommodate both the adult with dementia and a partner without, or a couple whose members each have some kind of disability. If it's a dementia-specific program, though, the healthy spouse may feel out of place. In such cases, look into whether she might be able to volunteer there. What's possible depends on the individual program.

Bear in mind that a key purpose of adult day programs is to provide relief for the caregiver. (And many nonprofit programs described as &quo t;respite" obtain funding because of this.) If the well spouse is the main caregiver, she's supposed to be taking a break while her partner attends. Even if the spouses prefer being together, limited separation through a day program can benefit both of them.

What does adult day care for a patient with Alzheimer's cost? Who pays?

Daily fees average $56, according to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA). Costs vary depending on where you live, the type of program you choose, and how many hours the patient uses it. Most programs are nonprofits, which may cost less than for-profit programs. Ask if a center offers a sliding scale of fees based on income.

Some places charge a fee per session; others charge monthly "tuition." Many centers charge an added fee for transportation, while some offer it free.

Adult day care may be covered by Medicaid , long-term-care insurance, Veterans Administration policies, and possibly health insurance (though the latter is least likely, with the exception of some long-term care insurance). Medicare will not cover adult day care services.

Adult day care trial run

Enroll the person in your care for a few sessions and see how it goes. Start small, with just a few hours per day or week, rather than diving into full-time day care. It's common for new participants to express some stress or hesitation about a center -- but it's also common for them to overcome this pretty quickly.

If the transition proves difficult and he protests or expresses his dislike of his first visits, talk about his concerns. You and/or the director may be able to overcome specific objections. If he has problems with the day care center that don't resolve after several weeks, you'll probably want to look into a different program for a better fit, or for an in-home care or companion service.


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio


4 months ago, said...

My mom is 95 yrs. Old. She can stand but not for long. She has dementia. She need 24 HRS. Care. For a week. My nephew and sister need a break and need to go out of town for a week. I work full time and cannot take off. What to do?


5 months ago, said...

I'm looking for adult day care in traverse city. Any recommended place?


6 months ago, said...

Looking for an adult day program for someone with alzhermier's disease, with weekend programs as well.


6 months ago, said...

Looking for a daycare center in Meridian Idaho or Boise. My wife has the early stage of Alzheimer's and needs to get out of house to help explore new activities. Can you help?


7 months ago, said...

My close friend has Alzheimer's. The disease started in her late 40's she's now 56 and would probably enjoy some of the crafts and socializing an adult day care provides. She lives at home with her husband and 2 sons. She's told me how bored and lonely she gets. Would this be a good option or would having someone come to the home be better?


8 months ago, said...

Hi, my Mom has second stage Alzheimer's and is needing activities to keep her stimulated and give my Dad a break. She lives in Austin, Texas. I am looking for a day care type center where she can go several times a week. Is there a list I can get to check on availability? Thank you


8 months ago, said...

Hi, my mom is 59 and was just diagnosed with dementia. She has significant short term memory loss but is still able to do all ADLs including driving. Unfortunately she was fired over a year ago and I feel her decline has been precipitous since that point because she has limited social interactions, doesn't exercise, doesn't do any hobbies and just watches tv all day. She lives in Valley Stream, NY so any information on adult day care programs in the area or simple volunteer work she could do I think would help lessen her cognitive decline. Thanks.


11 months ago, said...

My mom needs to go to a program a couple times a week. She has dementia. She is in Tallahassee, FL. I need to find out where she can go.


over 1 year ago, said...

Good morning, I am looking for an adult Day Care Program for my father who has Alzheimer's. In an attempt to give my mom his primary caregiver a break, I have taken on full responsibility for his care and brought him to Las Vegas to be with me for the month. I need help. Can someone please tell me of a service that he can participate in while he is with me.


over 1 year ago, said...

My father is 85 years old and living in Alexandria VA and has Medicare insurance, but he speaks Farsi. so I am looking for Iranian community for him near his home Alexandria VA, actually his friend need that services too, day care, so my mother could have some time off in day. do you know any place?


over 1 year ago, said...

Is there a senior daycare in Woodstown, NJ. What is the location. I need to find something for my 72 year old mother who has dementia.


over 2 years ago, said...

My other has just been diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimers. She livesesw with me and I work fulltime. I need to place her in adult daycare 3 days a week. I am looking for any organizations that are quality and affordable. I live in Bergen County, NJ,


about 3 years ago, said...

My husband has mixed dementia. Guess he's at beginning late stage. Needs help with all ADL's. He doesn't speak much but is still somewhat mobile. He was in the county Senior center adult day care 12 hrs a week, but that didn't work as he became irratated by the noise. It got so that he physically struck out at some of the staff. It was very noisy and lots of activity there. He needs more calmness and not so much running around. But the prices in this area (33511) are very steep for a memory care not in the neighborhood of $50 a day!! More like $20-$30 an hr. By the time I drop him off, get into my vehicle, drive to the store, shop, go get him I've used 2 hrs. Therefore I don't take him. It would be really nice to have a break. Now we even have Dr appts at the same time with our PCP so there is NO seperation, EVER. Idk what will happen if the day ever comes I can't be with him 24/7.


over 3 years ago, said...

Hello, To locate an Adult Day Care or Adult Day Service provider in your area you may go to Caring.com's Senior Care Directory at: http://www.caring.com/local/adult-day-care.


over 3 years ago, said...

Good afternoon, My mother is presently in a Long Term Facility but I am trying to see if I can find and Day Care Program for her and bring her back home. She needs daily activities to keep her busy. I appreciate any information that you can give me. We live in Osceola County.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Hello, Thank you for reaching out and asking for assistance in locating Adult Day Services in your area. Caring.com has a Senior Care Directory that may be helpful in locating providers in your area: http://www.caring.com/local/adult-day-care. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Hello, I am looking for adult daycare for my grandfather who is in the early to moderate stage of Alzheimer's. Do you know of any centers in the Santa Clarita, CA area? Thank you.


over 4 years ago, said...

Hello, I am looking for info to try to help my mother and father who live in Spring Hill, Florida. My mother is close to 87 and went through two surgeries about 2 months ago. She had heart surgery and then aneurism surgery. She has recovered pretty well from the surgeries but is suffering from Alzheimer's and is still in Health South rehab center in Spring Hill. She was home for a few weeks and wouldn't do the PT excersizes on her own. My dad is 90! He has done a fantastic job taking care of her up until this point. I am afraid he had reached his limit and her care is going to be to much for him now. They are both strong Catholics and my mother did volunteer work for her church year round right up until she was no longer able to help. We were wondering if you know of any programs where someone could come to their house everyday and help them. Not a nurse but someone who could work with my mom with PT and maybe help out around the house with everyday things that they are no longer able to do. We think assisted living and making them sell their house and move would be way to much for both of them. I am in Maryland and unable to help them the way I would like to. Please let me know if you know of any way to help them. Thank you SO much for your time and effort. Sincerely, Beverly Keel. 1-410-544-5995


almost 5 years ago, said...

Difference between daycare and, senior center; highly rated daycare.


over 5 years ago, said...

Good morning to All! My mom is in stage three of Alzheimers and is also Diabetic. I have tried to find an agency that Medicare or Medicaid pay for Pedicure services which come to the home. I am unsuccessful; the ones I've called do not come to the home. Mom is very much uncomfortable with long nails and her walking is being affected. I've tried to help her but I am not a professional and am affraid of cutting her. I've taken her to salons but they do not want the liability. Can't blame them but something needs to be done. We live in Miami Florida so if anyone has any suggestions; please HELP us. Thank You!