How adult day care can support the family caregiver

Oct 30,2020

This blog was originally published on Caregiving MetroWest on November 3, 2020.

We know that caregiving takes a toll on caregivers. It’s stressful; it’s challenging; it’s a full-time job. So what’s a caregiver to do when she’s working full-time and managing a home, her children and older parents who need – and deserve – attention and care?

Adult day care is a growing industry that provides benefits for caregivers and participants alike. In fact, today in the United States, there are more than 260,000 families who utilize adult day care for a loved one. According to Aging in Place, an online resource for seniors and their families, “there were 5,685 adult day care programs operating in the United States, up from 4,601 in 2010. Of older adults attending adult day services, 74% live at home.” Since 2002, there has been a 35% increase in adult day centers.

An alternative to long-term care, adult day care offers socialization, cognitive engagement for participants and much-needed respite and peace of mind for caregivers. Participants in adult day care programs enjoy meals with their fellow participants; wellness monitoring by trained professionals; and a variety of educational and recreational programs, for example. Additionally, support for activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are provided, as are specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia supportive services for clients and their family caregivers.

Socialization is imperative for all of us, but social Isolation can actually be life-threatening for older adults. The CDC reports that social isolation can increase an individual’s risk of death; may increase the chance of developing dementia by 50 percent; and increase risk of heart disease and stroke, among other concerning and life-threatening conditions.

Adult day programs counter that isolation by fostering a sense of community, purpose and productivity. Spending time with peers improves self-confidence, helps to prevent poor nutrition and dehydration and can improve an individual’s mood. Group activities like exercise, crafting or playing games can also improve one’s self-confidence while engaging both body and mind.

Cognitive engagement is imperative for all of us as we age, but for older adults, it is critical to their well-being. Lack of cognitive engagement can lead to an early Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, which in itself can be extremely isolating and difficult; poor hygiene; skipped meals; or forgetting to take life-saving medications. Adult day programs offer multi-sensory, cognitively-engaging programming that may involve art, music or animals, all of which can help to improve cognition and awareness.

Caregiving can cause stress and other mental issues like depression or anxiety and can cause caregivers to overlook their personal needs, for example. In fact, Caregiver.org reports that “Caregivers have higher levels of stress than non-caregivers.They also describe feeling frustrated, angry, drained, guilty or helpless as a result of providing care.” Adult day programs provide respite from caregiving so that they may focus on their own well-being, responsibilities and lives.

But, caregivers’ worry and stress can be alleviated knowing that their loved ones are enjoying daily activities, meals and fostering their own sense of community in a safe environment.

As always, please feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

Kara Harvey:  kara@elderwelladultday.com

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