How to Select an Adult Day Care Health Center

For any number of reasons, your elder relative may need assistance with the activities of daily living. You have a number of options for ensuring your loved one receives the level of care that he or she needs.

One is an adult day care health center. Over 3,000 of them across the country provide adults with a therapeutic environment, individualized care and support, and access to activities that they enjoy. But since there are no national requirements for adult day centers, articles like this one are a must-read to determine whether an adult day center is a good choice and which one to choose.

Selecting an Adult Day Center

Adult day centers, sometimes called adult day care programs, are designed for adults who have a limited ability to manage things on their own during the day. They may have grown frail with age, be recovering from an illness, or have chronic health problems.

There are more than 3,000 adult day centers across the country, either freestanding or attached to a residence or nursing home.

There are no national requirements for an adult day center, but there are voluntary standards that have been developed by the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA). The information provided below is based upon compliance with these voluntary standards.

Who Is Best Served by an Adult Day Center?

Adult day centers are good environments for elders who have limited mobility, who need help or supervision during the day, and who would benefit from daily social and therapeutic activities. Some adult day centers serve elders with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments; others are designed to meet the needs of frail or chronically ill elders only.

Although adult day centers often are viewed merely as providing respite for a family caregiver, they are much more than that to the older participant. The adult day center provides a therapeutic environment in which the older participant receives individualized care and support.

A center that meets NADSA standards conducts a thorough assessment of a participant when he or she begins the program. Then, working with the participant and, if appropriate, family members, center staff design a program specially tailored to meet the elder’s needs. This can be very helpful to those elders who are recovering from an illness and/or hospitalization.

What Types of Services Are Provided in an Adult Day Center?

The core services that all adult day centers provide include meals, supervised activities, help with medication, and assistance with the activities of daily living.

Some adult day centers offer transportation to and from the program, and a few offer transportation to rehabilitation or other health services a participant may need. Centers also provide help with bathing and grooming, rehabilitation, art and creative therapies, health monitoring, and referral to other services in the community as needed.

What Type of People Staff Adult Day Centers?

Professionals who have been trained to work with the elderly staff adult day centers. Most centers have a director, an activity director, and several assistants, depending upon the number of participants the center serves.

The NADSA standards suggest that at no time should there be less than 2 staff present and that the staff-to-participant ratio should be 1 to 6 for programs that offer the core services, and 1 to 4 in programs that serve severely impaired elders. Based on the range of services it provides, a center may require additional staff who work regular hours, such as a nurse, physical therapist, psychological therapist, and other skilled professionals.

What Should You Look for in Selecting an Adult Day Center?

First and foremost, you should look for a center that is comfortable, clean, has friendly and competent staff, and that appears active and busy when you visit. Some specific things you should look for are listed below. The ones that are most important may vary, depending upon the needs of the elder.

  1. Is transportation provided? Is it free, or is there an extra charge?
  2. Do the hours of the program correspond with the hours the elder needs?
  3. Is there a written statement of participants’ rights and clear, written policies about the type of participant the center serves?
  4. Does the range of services provided meet the elder’s needs?
  5. Are you provided with an assessment of the elder and information about a care plan?
  6. Does the activity schedule include activities that are of interest to the elder?
  7. Have center staff discussed with you situations in which your elder relative might not be able to continue at the center?
  8. Does the facility have private rooms for confidential discussions and well-equipped activity rooms?
  9. Do the staff’s credentials appear appropriate for your elder’s needs? (If help with medication is needed, is there a nurse or other qualified health professional available?)
  10. Do the participants of the center appear happy and engaged in the center’s activities?

Paying for Adult Day Services

The range of fees for adult day services is based upon location and services provided. Daily fees generally include programmed activities and meals (breakfast, snack, and lunch).

Some programs include transportation in their daily fee, but others charge separately for it. Other add-on fees might be required to cover bathing, grooming, rehabilitation services, or special trips or events.

Fees can range from $45/day on up. In some states, low-income elders may be eligible for subsidies. The adult day center director will know about any subsidies that may be available to help pay the costs of adult day services.

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