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The Benefits of Adult Day Services

June 12, 2019

Adult day services (or adult day care) came about in the 1970’s and have grown to more than 4,600 adult day services centers in the U.S., serving more than 260,000 people. They were formed to provide a coordinated program of professional and compassionate services for adults in a community-based group setting. The goal being to provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day. Nearly half of participants suffer from some form of dementia. As important, they afford caregivers a break from the demanding responsibilities of care giving. The question is, do these programs work? Does it help the participants and their caregivers? The research needed to answer these questions is rather thin, but two fairly recent articles maintain they are beneficial to all parties. One study in Geriatric Nursing found that participation in an adult day service provided socialization (lacking for many before its use), independence via the use of rehabilitative activities or direct physical therapy and stimulation (largely through activities designed to engage clients’ memory). Families interviewed for this study also commented that their family members had increased activity and social engagement at home, often represented by participants talking about the activities that took place during the day. This improved behavior, mood and function at home led many families and staff to believe that the day service was responsible for the participants remaining there for as long as possible. Meanwhile, caregivers and families said that using these services gave them a sense of security that their relatives were safe and care for when attending the adult day care. In addition, a review of studies on adult day services in the journal Healthcare, found:
  • One study found that six months after attendance at an adult day service had begun, participants exhibited significantly less depression and behavioral issues compared to those who didn’t attend.
  • The female spouses of the participants had higher levels of depression than adult daughters who care for a parent with dementia, who attended an adult day service.
  • Female spouses of non-attendees were also more likely to choose earlier admission to a senior living community than those who attended an adult day service. Researchers said this was significant because it supports the belief that adult day care attendance provides time apart and relief from care-related stressors and may lessen the negative impact associated with sustained expose to stress.
  • As expected, caregivers exhibited less stress about their relative’s mood, memory loss and changes in behavior when adult day service was used.
Despite these positives, there was a sense of frustration among family members and care staff about the general lack of awareness of these services by the public.