What To Know About Adult Day Care

diverse group of seniors putting together a puzzle and laughing

What Is Adult Day Care?

An adult day care is a facility older adults go to during the day. Usually open morning to afternoon on weekdays, adult day care offers a place for elderly loved ones to be safe, stimulated, and in good care. Adult day cares offer an alternative to assisted living facilities. An adult day care is ideal for seniors who want to be independent, active, and spend more time with others. Adult day cares are the perfect option for families who work full-time jobs and can’t give care to their loved ones during the day. Studies find that most elderly adults prefer to stay at home and be around their communities. The Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) sourced a 2010 AARP study that showed 92% of elderly citizens wanted to stay in their communities. A study done in Japan concluded that elderly adults who stayed at home and had support from communities were less likely to be institutionalized. Up to 90% of people aged 65 and over are already aging. The striking conclusions of the research show the importance of creating spaces to assist the needs of the elderly without compromising their home and family life. There have been many attempts at finding alternatives to assisted living homes. Adult day care is rising as a popular alternative due to cost-effectiveness, relief to families, and improved behavior and mental activity of their loved ones. old man using walker outside and getting assistance from a younger man

Types of Adult Day Care Centers

Adult day care centers cater to different needs. Adult day cares can often offer a range of social, medical, and specialized treatment. There are also individual adult day services that provide only social services, only medical services, and are only for senior citizens with certain conditions. All forms of community care for the elderly are known as respite care. Generally, there are three types of adult day care: adult social day services, adult day health care, and specialized day care.

Adult Social Day Services

Adult social day services exclusively offer recreation, group trips, and clubs. These senior facilities provide book clubs, sip-and-paints, knitting and sewing, arts and crafts, and dance. These programs often do offer transport back and forth and essential health checkups. This option is ideal for adults who don’t have any medical limitations. It is an excellent option for loved ones who are lonely, want to try new things, and want to busy themselves in a safe environment during the day.

Adult Day Health Care

Adult day health care (ADHC) centers provide more therapeutic and intensive activities. These facilities require medical assessments and screening beforehand. You can get occupational, speech, and rehabilitation therapies at these facilities. Participants 55 and over with Medicaid or medicare can receive payment from attending ADHC programs through a local service such as the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). This option is ideal for adults who require more intensive and therapeutic care.

Specialized Day Care

Adult day care is the greatest option when looking for specialized care. Adult day centers have positive behavioral and mental effects on loved ones with dementia, Alzheimer's, and other disabilities. Specialized adult day care is the ideal option for families who care for those with particular disabilities. These needs can be met directly in these facilities without putting them through premature institutionalization. Specialized day care allows patients to have a safe environment to have mental, physical, and social stimulation during the day while remaining in the familiarity and comfort of their families and homes. Specialized day care centers for people with dementia and Alzheimer's have priority in behavioral management. The Alzheimer's Association states that specialized centers deal with and manage certain inappropriate behaviors. Behaviors include incontinence, wandering, angry outbursts, hallucinations, inappropriate sexual conduct, or speech difficulties. A study published in 2019 concluded that integrated approaches, such as specialized adult day care, addressed the demands and needs of people with dementia. The study concluded that family caregivers of dementia benefited from such programs. The study also concluded that people with dementia had increased feelings of competence and self-confidence.

Respite Care

Respite care isn't a third type of adult day care. Respite care is a general term for all forms of community care. Adult day cares are a form of respite care. Respite care can be provided at home, at a hospital, at a day center, or by family and friends. Respite care is any care that provides a safe and stimulating environment for loved ones. Respite care can be given temporarily by nurses or family at home. According to Elder Guide, respite care prices vary depending on the type of facility. If a loved one receives respite care from a nursing home, it can be up to $250 per day. Developmentally disabled young men working on crafts

What To Look For When Choosing an Adult Day Program

First, assess their needs.

  • Do they want company during the day?

  • Do they have a mild to a severely debilitating medical condition, or multiple, that requires immediate attention?

  • Do they have Alzheimer’s, dementia, developmental disability, or severe mental health conditions?

  • Is supervision from a medical professional or caregiver necessary to perform daily tasks?

  • Do they need to be monitored while doing activities such as going out, running errands, or around the house?

  • Consider location too. Will a center provide reliable transportation? Is it too far from home for the loved one's comfort?

When looking for an adult day care, make sure to research its licenses or certifications. Learn about what professionals are on site. Call or email individual facilities to learn more about their staffing process and admission requirements. These are essential questions to consider to ensure that loved ones meet their needs.

How To Find an Adult Day Care

A census in 2014 by NADSA showed 5,685 adult day services operating in the United States. This number has only grown. Both NADSA (National Adult Day Services Association) and Elder Care offer easy ways to find local adult day care. On NADSA’s site, type in a city or zip code. Or, click on the drop-down menu titled “Choose a state” to pick the desired state. Once typed in, several different locations will appear. Elder Care’s locator offers the same simplicity as NADSA to find local adult care facilities. Elder Care also offers free consultation calls with information specialists to help families find facilities that specifically meet their needs.

Standards and Licensing

Adult day care centers have had unique and rigid standards to ensure optimal quality and treatment of seniors. The National Institute of Adult Daycare (NIAD) first began in 1984. Since then, it has only improved standards, services, and vetting processes for licensed officials on staff. The US Department of Health and Human Services reported most states need professionals on-site to be licensed and certified. Adult day cares are also evaluated under these meticulous standards to meet requirements. Adult day cares must also be licensed or certified, most states requiring both. Every program must meet specific requirements. Suppose a program offers daily assistance to those with dementia or Alzheimer's. In that case, they evaluate the program to ensure it is compliant with standards and guidelines to treat and care for those with dementia or Alzheimer's. When adult day cares aren’t licensed or certified, they are publicly funded and are in agreements with the state to meet requirements and mandates. About 86% of adult day services are state-certified or hold a license. Almost 30% of adult day services are for-profit, with the overwhelming majority being non-profit organizations. senior water aerobics class

Benefits of an Adult Day Care

Many people aged 60 and over need assistance with daily tasks. These include eating, dressing, and bathing. It takes a burden off of loved ones and their families. It also includes other areas of life such as legal concerns, medical care, and other legislative issues. Adult day cares are the ideal solution to aiding senior citizens when they don’t have family around during the day to help them. Loved ones participating in adult day care programs found their stress reduced, their lives easier to manage, and they were more active during the day. It has such a positive impact that researchers have even found adult day care services to lessen negative behavior in patients with dementia. Adult day care programs also have a positive impact on the family of the elderly. The caregivers also have stress reduction and a more favorable time spent with their loved ones. Adult day care programs also promoted independence in their patients. A loved one who was once anxious to go out or felt too much dependence on their family can regain their ambition, drive, and independence. Loved ones make new friends during the day, try new activities, and be able to relate to others who are going through the same thing. Part of the services provided by adult day cares is movement therapies. It can range from walks around the neighborhood to light exercise activities and physical therapies. In multiple studies, NADSA has seen reverse effects in cognitive impairment. Physical activity and exercises have improved mood and memory and halted declining mental ability.

Old smiling woman being handed a cup of coffee

Adult Day Care Services

Adult day care services must cover three main categories. Social, medical, and specialized. Facilities can cater to all three of these needs or only one of these needs. Every day in most facilities, senior citizens will experience exercise, games, entertainment, planned trips, and relaxing time with others. We meet concerns about transportation. Most adult care facilities offer transportation to pick up loved ones from home and bring them back home. It can vary by location, and it is vital to get more information from each site.

Social Activities

Social activities can include watching movies, playing board games and puzzles, going out on planned trips, and exercising together. According to Social Adult Services (SADS) in New York state, some offer group exercises like Tai Chi and yoga. Art and music therapy are offered as group experiences as well. These forms of therapy allow patients to form bonds over intellect, creativity, and imagination. It gives patients stress relief by being able to express themselves safely.


Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) have five basic categories that make up people’s necessary routines. Hobbies, cleaning around the home, shopping for groceries, care of pets, and managing finances are all a part of activities of daily living. Each activity falls into three categories: personal care assistance, lifestyle support, and domestic activities. These five daily living requirements are at adult care centers. In adult day cares, nurses on site will perform daily vital checks and administer medicines. Registered practitioners often perform health screenings that include memory, weight, hearing, and sight. Adult day care facilities make health and care the utmost priority. Meals and snacks are at all adult day care centers in the United States. Each facility is careful about dietary needs and restrictions, making all meals balanced and nutritious. According to their needs, everyone has access to vitamins, supplements, and medicines. Allergies, intolerance, and food interactions are all taken into consideration. Weight management and diabetes programs are in adult day programs. There is personal physical care included. They help patients use the toilet, bathe, groom, and eat. Therapy is in adult care sites. They range from physical therapy to psychiatric treatment. Four seniors playing bingo

Admission Requirements

Lengths of Stay

Typically, an adult day care operates Monday through Friday. Opening hours range from morning to afternoon or morning to early evening. These times can vary by facility. Though facilities aren’t open to take patients in on weekends, organizers can plan group trips on weekends. Transportation to pick participants up for trips during the weekends might be offered and can vary by facility. MetLife Mature Market Institute Study showed that patients enroll in adult service programs for two years.

Adult Day Care Costs

At-home care from nurses or senior homes can be expensive and unnecessary at first. Compensating with building home structures for assisted living can also be costly. Researchers and nurses find it vital to make adult day care programs accessible and cost-effective. The effort to make adult day programs the first choice is to reduce the premature institutionalization of older adults. Still, with these efforts, adult day cares aren’t cheap—some averaging over $2,000 a month. Despite this, adult day care is still a cheaper alternative to nursing home structures. Adult day care directly impacts the economy by cutting the costs needed for assisted living senior centers. Evidence from research shows that, in a state like Missouri, enrolling in an adult day care program can save almost $500,000 for taxpayers. There are government funds readily available to pay for adult day services.


Medicaid is government aid for people with low income. Medicaid offers ways of funding for adult day cares. Medicaid programs most likely to cover adult programs are called Medicaid Waivers. Medicaid offers three types of waivers to pay adult day care services by giving monthly funds. These monthly funds are higher than most other Medicaid elderly budgets yet include a waitlist. With “regular” or state plan Medicaid, Medicaid offers to pay for adult day care by giving a monthly fund, but notably much lower than Medicaid Waivers. But the state plan has no waitlist and is a faster process.


Medicare is government aid for people aged 65 and older or under 65 with a disability. Medicare coverage doesn’t include any non-medical adult care services. Medicare does cover adult day services for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Affordable Options

Non-Medicaid eligible families have other options too. The United States offers direct financial assistance to senior veterans. The Veterans Direct Care program provides a monthly fund to pay for adult day cares. The average cost for daily participation in an adult day care is $70. $136 per day in Vermont is some of the United States’ highest prices to the least costly in states like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi with $35 per day. Elderly care can vary by 50% in different states. It’s important to call local centers first to find out pricing. Long-term care insurance might be an option for older adults. Policies differ, but most cover assisted living and day care programs. It’s best to call the insurance provider and see what services are covered.

seniors sitting in a circle and doing a group activity

When To Consider Adult Day Care

Authority sites like AARP recommend that families and caregivers consider adult day programs when their loved one loses the ability to perform daily tasks or expresses loneliness. Elderly adults or adults with disabilities might feel unsafe alone, have trouble focusing on things throughout the day, or be unable to structure their daily routines. Loved ones might be apprehensive to mention this initially, but communication about options is essential. It’s also important to consider adult day care when a family has full-time work. It can be burdensome to experience this. The communities made in adult day care can relieve loved ones of loneliness, anxiety, and stress and enhance the overall quality of life.

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