Adult Day Care Programs for Caregiver Respite

Author: Amanda Woodward

| Published on: April,12 | Viewed: 2598 times


Time off from caregiving is important to maintain your physical and emotional health. Family and friends may be able to help, but formal respite care is another way to manage the stress of caregiving.  Respite care gives you time for yourself, an opportunity to get together with friends, the ability to keep working, or a chance to finish household chores and errands during some much-needed time off. Respite is the type of help that caregivers most often request, and yet they often put off using it for too long. Taking advantage of respite care early in the caregiving process can reduce or delay the negative effects of stress.

Adult day care programs are one way to access respite care

Adult day care programs provide the care recipient with social time and activities as well as a break for the caregiver. Research on adult day care programs for older adults with dementia have found improvements in the health and well-being of both the caregiver and care recipient. Most participants attend programs for full days and about half attend five days a week.

Just like choosing a senior housing community, adult day care programs vary. It’s important to do some research and visit programs to find one that is the best fit for you and your loved one.  

Here are some key things to know:

  • Caregivers in previous studies have identified personalized care for their loved one as important.  Adult day care programs have about one direct care worker for every six participants to help ensure individually focused care.

  • About 60% of adult day care programs offer case management services and about half have a social work professional on staff.

  • The majority of adult day care programs have a nurse on staff who can provide basic health services and help your loved one manage their medications while they are there.

  • It’s not uncommon for participants to have multiple chronic illnesses. Most programs offer a variety of education, physical activities, diet programs, medication management, and referrals for specific diseases and conditions.

  • It’s also not uncommon for many of the participants to experience some level of dementia. Adult day care programs provide a safe environment along with activities to help address cognitive and memory problems.

  • Most centers have caregiver support programs such as education, support groups, and individual counseling.

  • Meals and transportation are common.

  • The average cost is about $64 a day depending on where you live and the services provided, as opposed to about $20 an hour for in-home care.

  • Medicare does not pay for adult day care. Medicaid will pay most or all of the fees for a licensed adult day health care center or a program focused on dementia care. Long-term care insurance may also help pay some of the cost.  Most programs will have a sliding fee scale and many can provide financial aid or scholarships.

An adult day care program might be a good option for you and your loved one. Seniorly, the National Respite Network and Resource Center, or your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find respite programs in your community, whether you need support for one day or a few weeks long.

Seniorly is the trusted resource for comprehensive information on short-term senior housing. Visit or call us at (415) 570-4370 for a free consultation with our gerontologist today!

About Amanda Woodward

Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. She does research on services and supports for older adults including racial and ethnic disparities in access to services and international comparisons of service systems. She writes about a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia, and whatever else catches her fancy at

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