With the number of older adults in our population growing every day, a variety of new in-home and community services have been introduced. One program that is often overlooked is adult day care.
Adult day care is similar to senior centers but with an added element of staff assistance for those with early dementia or other debilitating illnesses. Adult day activity programs offer socialization and a variety of activities including music, exercise, baking and crafts. A relaxed, homelike atmosphere welcomes participants each morning for a cup of coffee and some friendly chit chat, and a hot lunch is served as a participant’s main meal of the day. This provides caregivers with a break from cooking a big meal in the evening.
At an adult day center, older adults who couldn’t wait to retire and stay home may suddenly realize how much fun it is to get out and be with people their own age. Reminiscing, discussing current events, answering trivia questions and completing specialized computer games increases the participants’ cognitive fitness. Better cognitive fitness improves their ability to converse and use recall skills. This makes interacting with others more pleasurable for the older adult and his or her family and can help to slow the progression of dementia.
Many adult day programs provide basic nursing care such as medication management, health monitoring for conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, and health education. A staff nurse can be a source of information about how to cope with medical conditions and an early warning system for families through monthly screenings. Experienced staff can help families cope with the progression of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and daily assistance with life skills can help participants to maintain or enhance their level of independence.
Eddie, a participant at our center for three years, attends every day. He has coffee and chats with the other men at the center about cars, restaurants and the news. Eddie participates in exercise and table games and enjoys trivia and reminiscing about his years in Bellefonte. His wife, Dorothy, still works full time. Before she found an adult day center, she was anxious about leaving Eddie alone because he had wandered from home in the past and become lost. Now she has peace of mind during her work day, and additional time to run errands, go to her own appointments or go out to lunch with a friend for some rest and relaxation.
Adult day programs are a safe, enjoyable way for older adults to spend part of their day and can enable families to keep their loved ones from transitioning to assisted living or even a nursing home for many years. Maybe someone you know could benefit from the services they provide.
Heidi Cornwall is a manager at the Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries’ Senior Daily Living Center in State College.