How should I evaluate adult day services for a loved one with Alzheimer's?

When evaluating adult day services for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, choose a service that is specifically for people with Alzheimer's. These services are more likely to be familiar with the behavioral disturbances that can occur and will be experienced in how to handle those. Arrange for a tour of the facility and bring your loved one in need of the services. You should feel comfortable, welcomed and at ease. Stay for a while with your loved one and participate in the activities. This may help overcome reluctance or suspicion from your loved one. The facility should be clean, free of falling hazards, have good lighting and multiple activities suitable for a memory-impaired person.

Adult day services can be an important part of a care plan for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Find one that meets your needs. Locate adult day services in your area by contacting an Area Agency on Aging, senior citizen service offices or national or local Alzheimer’s disease advocacy organizations. Licensing and certification requirements vary by state. An intake interview and ongoing evaluation will determine if your loved one is a good fit for the center.

Check operating hours. Most programs follow part or all of a nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday schedule, but some open earlier in the morning and later in the evening. A small percent are open on Saturdays and for overnight care.

Evaluate the program. In addition to operating hours, consider the center’s level of care, safety and services, including the availability of recreational activities—such as pet, art and music therapies and mental stimulation exercises—and physical, speech and occupational therapies. Meet the staff and note their credentials, and the ratio of staff to participants.

Inquire about financial aid. The average fee for adult day services is $67 a day, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Medicare doesn’t pay for non-acute, non-medical services like a social model adult day program. But inquire about Medicaid eligibility for adult day services, long-term care insurance policies that pay for this activity, and/or sliding scale fee options or scholarships and grants from the center itself or national and local organizations so that your loved one can attend.

Ask about transportation. Find out whether the program provides transportation and if the fee is included in the program cost. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires paratransit (door-to-door) services for disabled persons; consult with your local Area Agency on Aging for more information about a local provider. A taxi service or carpooling might be other options, depending on your loved one’s condition.

Check out services for caregivers. Many adult day programs also offer support groups, educational events and other programs for caregivers while their loved ones are attending the center. Support groups can help with possible feelings of guilt about letting go and having your loved one attend the program. For example, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America offers a respite care grant for families in financial need, which can be applied toward an adult day program. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.