DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: What can you tell me about adult day care for seniors? My 82-year-old father, who lives with us, has dementia and needs attention during the day while we’re at work. — Looking for Care

 

DEAR LOOKING: Adult day care is a great and affordable option for caregivers who work, or those who just need a break during the day. Here’s what you should know.

As the name implies, “adult day care” provides care for elderly seniors who cannot care for themselves at home. While services will vary from center to center, they typically provide custodial care, meals, various activities and social interaction in a safe supportive environment. Additionally, many centers also provide health services such as medication management, various therapies, exercise and more. Adult day care centers generally operate programs during normal business hours five days a week, although some centers may offer services in the evenings and on weekends, too.

Depending on where you live and the center you choose, adult day care costs anywhere from $25 to $150 per day (the national average is $67/day), which is more affordable than hiring a home health aide which averages $21 per hour nationally or $168 for an eight-hour day. Unfortunately, Medicare does not currently pay for adult day care so your financial assistance options are either private long-term care insurance, or some states offer Medicaid waiver programs.

Your first step in shopping for an adult day center is to determine the kinds of services your father and you need, and can afford. After you do that, here are some tips to help you locate and choose a good provider:

Finding a center: Start with your Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number), or local Alzheimer support groups (visit alz.org to search) for referrals. Or check your Yellow Pages under Adult Day Care or Seniors Services.

Call: Once you have a list of a few centers, call them to find out their eligibility criteria, if they are accepting new clients, their hours of operation, if they’re licensed and/or registered with a state agency (this is not required in all states), what they charge, and the types of services they provide.

Visit: After you find a center that can meet your father’s needs and budget, visit. Find out about the staffing ratio (at least one staff member for every six participants is recommended) and what kind of training they have. While you’re there, notice the cleanliness and smell of the facility. Is it homey and inviting? Does the staff seem friendly and knowledgeable? Also be sure to taste the food, and consider making an unannounced visit.

Ask about transportation: Does the center provide transportation to and from the facility, or is transportation available through other sources, such as a local agency on aging.

Inquire about discounts: Many centers also offer discounts if you prepay and register for multiple days per week.

Ask for references: Talk to two or three families who have used the center you are considering.

The National Adult Day Services Association provides additional information on their website (nadsa.org) including links to a national database of adult day centers.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.