Adult Day Care Centers: Senior Day Care Options

Key Takeaways

  • Adult day care centers offer daytime care for seniors, blending supervision, social activities, and potential medical services as an alternative to full-time senior living.
  • Eligibility for adult day care often includes seniors with cognitive impairments, those needing socialization, or those requiring assistance with daily activities.
  • Facilities vary: Social centers focus on engagement, Senior Enrichment centers on hobbies, Specialized Memory centers cater to dementia patients, and Medical centers provide daily medical care.
  • Services encompass social activities, outings, mental exercises, structured meals, daily living assistance, and transportation.
  • Seniors gain social interaction, meals, supervision, and health activities, while caregivers receive peace of mind and respite.
  • The median monthly cost is around $1,560, with payment options including private funds, Medicaid, Medicare, and VA benefits.
  • Some centers may have specific days or hours of operation, with some even offering weekend services.
  • It’s crucial to ensure that the chosen center meets state licensing and approval requirements. Some top facilities seek third-party accreditation for added credibility.

Adult day care centers and programs can provide important peace of mind to both seniors and their caregivers by giving seniors a safe and fun environment to spend their daytime hours.

Further, these programs are often more affordable than other forms of nursing care for seniors, while still providing them with much-needed health services on a daily basis.

What Is Adult Day Care?

Adult day care programs are exactly what they sound like — day programs for older adults where they can receive supervision and enjoy social activities with others.

In addition to supervision and socialization, many of these programs also offer personal care and medical services to seniors who need extra help or daily medical management.

These programs can be great alternatives for people who would prefer to keep their loved one out of senior living, like assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, but cannot afford in-home care or provide in-home care for their loved one full-time.

How Adult Day Care Programs Work

A typical adult day care program is open during the week, Monday through Friday, although some programs may also operate on weekends.

Most programs operate during typical business hours, from 8a.m. to 5 p.m., with some being open later for a total of up to 12 hours.

Some adult day care centers may require participants to attend all five days a week, while others may offer both full-time or part-time options. Certain centers may even allow elders to come one or two days per week.

Services at adult day care centers will vary with each program, but generally include social and recreational activities along with health care and personal care services.

Who Is Eligible for Adult Day Care Centers?

Eligibility requirements may vary with each center, as some may have an age minimum or other type of requirements for elders.

If your loved one is struggling with their daily activities and needs care beyond what their family can give, it may be time to consider adult day care for them.

Your loved one may be eligible for adult care if:

  • They have a cognitive or memory loss impairment such as Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • They need socialization with other seniors
  • They have no supervision during the day, but do have care at home overnight with a loved one
  • They need help with activities of daily living (ADL)
  • They have a chronic medical condition that requires daily medication management or care
  • They would prefer not to live in a full-time facility

Types of Adult Day Care Facilities

Adult day care centers can be found in a few formats, depending on the level of care that a senior is looking for.

1. Social Adult Day Care Centers

This type of day care is for seniors who are still quite independent and high-functioning, and who need adult day care more for social engagement and to combat loneliness.

Activities at these centers are based on each individual’s physical capabilities, but can include exercise and arts and crafts, among others.

2. Senior Enrichment Centers

Senior enrichment centers is a general term that includes many types of adult day care centers. Typically, this type of center focuses on engaging seniors in hobbies that enrich their physical and mental well-being.

Seniors at this type of facility often do not need high levels of personal or medical care, and are in attendance more to find enrichment and improve their overall quality of life.

3. Specialized Memory Care Facilities

Specialized adult day care is for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia or memory impairment.

At these facilities, seniors can receive some level of medical care along with therapies and activities that aim to stimulate the brain and cognition.

4. Medical Adult Day Care Programs

Medical adult day care programs are more suitable for seniors who have chronic medical conditions that require care every day, but not necessarily in the evenings or overnight.

The medical services you would find at this type of center are on the same level as those you would find in a skilled nursing facility.

Types of Adult Day Care Services

The following are services that you may find standard in most adult day care centers.

Social & Recreational Activities

Social and recreational activities aim to get seniors talking and interacting with one another, joining in common activities or discussions.

These types of activities are essential for seniors because they keep their minds active and sharp while also combating loneliness and isolation.

Exercise & Outings

The seniors in adult day care center will have a wide range of physical abilities, and activities will be planned around these factors.

Common types of outings and exercise can be walks outside around the facility or light guided stretching and yoga.

Mental Stimulation Activities

In addition to physical activities, it is also important that seniors receive ample mental stimulation while at adult day care centers.

This can mean activities like board and card games, group discussions, arts and crafts, and storytelling.

Structured Meal & Snack Times

Adult day care programs meet for up to 12 hours each day, and seniors require multiple meals and snacks during this time.

Through structured meal and snack times at adult day care, seniors do not have to worry about preparing their own meals or cleaning up afterward throughout the day.

Help With Activities of Daily Living

Many of the seniors who are in adult day care are in need of assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs).

ADLs include bathing and personal hygiene, feeding, dressing, using the bathroom, and transferring in and out of beds or chairs.

Transportation Services

Some adult day care centers provide transportation for elders to and from the day care center, for those who need adult day care services but have trouble getting to the center each day.

In addition, some centers may also be able to provide transportation services during the day to seniors who need to get to doctor’s or therapy appointments.

Support & Resources for Caregivers

Oftentimes, caregivers can also receive support from adult day care programs, which can be vital for those who are experiencing caregiver burnout or fatigue.

Types of support resources for caregivers can include counseling and access to support groups, or educational and training materials to help with care at home.

Top Benefits of Adult Day Care for Elderly Participants

Adult day care programs can bring a lot of benefits to the elderly people who participate in them and can work to improve their overall sense of well-being and contentment.

Benefits of adult day care for participants include:

  • Social interaction
  • Nutritious meals
  • Supervision
  • Physical and mental health activities
  • Medical services with a registered nurse (at some centers)
  • Reduced risk of accidents
  • More affordable than in-home care
  • Access to speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy

Top Benefits of Adult Day Care for an Elderly Person’s Caregiver

Adult day care provides many benefits to family caregivers in addition to the elderly person.

Benefits of adult day care for caregivers include:

  • Peace of mind for their loved one
  • A break from duties
  • Ability to work during the day
  • Access to caregiver training and educational resources

Adult Day Care vs. Other Types of Senior Care

Adult day care can be thought of like outpatient assisted living or skilled nursing home care — the alternative, of course, is to stay onsite in a residential facility.

One of the major pros of staying in an inpatient care option facility versus adult day care would be access to 24/7 assistance and medical care, which some seniors may be more suited for.

The biggest con of inpatient facilities is arguably their high price tag — with skilled nursing facilities at times costing up to $10,000 a month.

Seniors always have the option for in-home care as well, which may be more suitable for seniors with limited mobility or transportation. With in-home care, unfortunately, seniors do miss out on important socialization opportunities.

Cost of Adult Day Care

The national median cost for an adult day care program is approximately $1,560 a month, though there are many factors that will affect this number.

When compared to the average costs of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities per month, adult day care costs can be very affordable.

Ways to Pay for Adult Day Care Programs

Adult day care can be paid for in a number of ways and usually with a combination of multiple ways.

Ways to pay for adult day care programs include:

  • Private funds: Senior care is often paid for with private funds and savings, including retirement funds and pension payments.
  • Medicare: Medicare on its own cannot be used for adult day care, however, Medicare/Medicaid combos can be used for adult day care.
  • Medicaid: Adult day care is covered by Medicaid in all states.
  • Long-term care insurance: Most, but not all, long-term care insurance policies do cover at least a portion of adult day care costs.
  • VA benefits: Seniors who are also veterans may be able to use their VA benefits for health care and disabilities.
  • Tax credits: Both seniors and their caregivers can potentially receive credits on their taxes for using adult day centers.

What to Look for in an Adult Day Care Center

When considering adult day care programs, it is important that your loved one feels safe, is cared for, and has a good time during their visit to the center each day.

Because of this, you will want to find a center that is both secure and supervised and which has activities planned each day to stimulate seniors mentally and physically.

Adult Day Care Center Licensing & Approval Requirements

You will also want to ensure that any adult day care center that you are interested in follows all licensing and approval requirements in your state.

For instance, some states require adult day care centers to be licensed but not certified, while others require them to be certified but not licensed. Only four states require adult day care centers to be both licensed and certified.

Regulations involved in adult day care center licensing and certification include:

  • Special staffing and training at facilities which treat dementia patients
  • Participant thresholds and maximum hourly limits on treatment
  • Medication administration regulations
  • Meal and snack regulations

The best adult day care facilities will seek third-party accreditation from an organization such as the Joint Commission, for an added layer of credibility to their high standard of care.

Tips for Choosing an Adult Day Care Center

When choosing an adult day care center for your loved one, make sure to consider the needs of both the senior and their caregiver.

Tips for choosing an adult day care include:

  • Choose a center that is close by, accessible, or that offers transportation to and from the center.
  • Choose a center with meal options that are nutritious, appealing, and easily modified for special diets.
  • Choose a center with a low staff-to-senior ratio, so you know your loved one will get proper attention.
  • Choose a center that offers activities that are engaging and stimulating and which promote socialization.
  • Do your best to match the needs of your elderly loved one with the services or level of care provided.

Questions to Ask Adult Day Care Programs

You should always ask any adult day care center that you are interested in a series of questions before agreeing to any terms, and visit them multiple times in person as well.

Questions to ask an adult day care program include:

  • What hours does the program meet each day?
  • What are the rates for part-time and full-time programs?
  • What is the procedure for emergencies?
  • What should participants bring with them each day?
  • How is the staff trained?
  • How and when is food served, and what types of meals and snacks are provided?
  • Is there a contract or can we end service at any time?

These are just a few example questions to get you started, and you will likely have many more questions related to your individual situation.

Remember: never be afraid or intimidated to ask certain questions, especially if you notice something strange or alarming during your facility tour.

Find an Adult Day Care Center Near You

An adult day care center can often be just what a senior needs in order to have their needs met while providing some much-needed relief to their caregivers and family members.

To find such an adult day care center near you, browse our comprehensive directory of senior care facilities, or contact us at any time for assistance.

Adult Day Care FAQs

The average cost per day for an adult day care program in the U.S. is $74, which can be higher or lower depending on multiple factors.

Seniors can usually save money by signing up for full-time or part-time programs, during which they attend adult day care for a set number of days and hours each week.

Some adult day care centers do allow seniors to bring their pets, however, there may be limits on breed and size.

Additionally, some centers may also have animals or pets that live or stay at the center, and may even be provided as a part of pet or animal therapy.

You can find adult day care centers, as well as other types of senior care and living options, by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging through the federal government’s Eldercare Locator.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need further assistance in finding an adult day care senior center near you.

Written by: Aging with Care Editorial Staff

©2024 Aging with Care | All Rights Reserved

At Aging With Care, we hold a profound commitment to presenting the most recent and trustworthy information regarding senior living and elder care. We take great pride in the high-quality content we produce, meticulously ensuring its accuracy through a stringent fact-checking process.

Our sources stand up to the highest levels of credibility, spanning across well-regarded peer-reviewed journals, esteemed governmental organizations, respected academic institutions, and noteworthy advocates in the field of elder care. We strongly believe in transparency and welcome you to understand our rigorous approach towards safeguarding the quality and reliability of our content by perusing our editorial policy.