The global population is aging. In the United States, approximately 16% of the population is 65 years of age or older and this is expected to rise in the next several decades. (ACL) After age 65, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s (the most common cause of dementia) doubles every five years, making the risk nearly 50% after age 85, according to a report on Health Disparity and Health Inequity from the Houston Health Department.
As the number of older adults living in the community grows, the use and demand for long-term care is also increasing. Nevertheless, given the choice, many older adults prefer to stay at home to “age in place.” This preference is reflected in the increasing number of facilities that are providing day programs for adults in their communities.
These programs can be particularly important for supporting the well-being of people living with dementia or cognitive impairment. They can also be just as important for those caring for a loved one with dementia. According to The Gerontologist, adult day programs contribute to positive health-related, social, psychological, and behavioral outcomes for care recipients and caregivers.
What is an Adult Day Program?
Adult day programs or centers enable older adults to socialize and enjoy planned activities in a group setting, while still receiving needed health services. Older adults with cognitive or physical challenges benefit from the company of peers, enriching and stimulating activities, and close attention from compassionate health professionals. Adult day programs also offer family members much-needed respite from caregiving duties and peace of mind knowing that their loved one is in a safe place and being cognitively engaged.
Why Consider an Adult Day Program?
Receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is frightening. Navigating all the options for care can quickly become even more overwhelming. A day program can be the perfect option for many families by providing their loved one’s support, engagement, and safety during the day, and the comforts of family and home in the evening.
An adult day program may also allow your loved one to remain at home longer by delaying the need to move to a long-term residential care facility. Most adult day programs are designed to encourage your loved one to spend time with others and participate in supervised activities that can improve their daily living skills and their overall sense of well-being. That’s why day program attendees are commonly referred to as “participants.” It’s in the act of participating and being connected to others that adults, especially those with dementia, can feel whole again.
Research studies not only show positive behavioral outcomes for participants but there is also evidence to suggest the types of services provided by adult day programs may help delay cognitive decline for those with dementia. This means that for individuals recently diagnosed with dementia, participation in a day program can be especially beneficial. If you suspect your loved one may have dementia, please consult a specialist immediately and read our article on how to have the Dementia Conversation.
How Can I Help My Loved One Adjust to an Adult Day Program?
The most important thing you can do is be patient. It might take some time for your loved one to feel comfortable at an adult day program, especially if your loved one has shown discomfort in group settings in the past or if they have become withdrawn because of their dementia diagnosis.
Give your loved one a chance to get acclimated before deciding if a program is a good fit. This can be very challenging when your loved one is very resistant to attending something new but being patient and persistent is worth the long-term benefits a day program has to offer. As the Alzheimer’s Association notes, while some may resist going to an adult day program at first, they often look forward to participating after several weeks of attending, meeting people, and joining in activities.
The more days a week your loved one can attend a day program, the more they will have an opportunity to benefit, improving quality of life and leading to positive behavioral outcomes. Day program staff can assist you with these types of decisions.