Two women at an adult day service center

Two women at an adult day service centerAdult day service centers provide social stimulation for adults who need supervision due to a physical disability, frailty, or dementia, and a much-needed break for family caregivers.

My mother, Judy, had vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When she moved in with me and my young family in 2005, she could still do a lot by herself, but when I left every morning to go to work she was bored and depressed. She was also not eating. I didn’t realize until much later that Mom could not remember to look for the meals I left for her in the refrigerator, and that she could not follow my instructions to heat them in the microwave. I hired a neighbor to visit with Mom (and encourage her to eat), but that was only a few hours a week. Mom also refused to accept the invitations of other neighbors to go out for lunch or to activities such as concerts. Feeling self-conscious about her memory loss, she was isolating herself. How could I help her feel more engaged and less lonely? And how could I stop worrying about her all day long while I was at work?

At my local Office for the Aging I heard about an adult day service center at a nearby assisted living facility. Like most adult day service centers, this program provided activities such as discussion groups, reading out loud, exercise, music, and art, along with meals and snacks. Unfortunately, when I showed Mom the brochure she refused to go. If she had not moved into assisted living shortly after our conversation, I’m sure I would have suggested the program again.

Common questions about adult day service centers:

Story time with visiting children at an adult day service center in Arkansas (photo courtesy of Millenium Day Care)
Story time with visiting children at an adult day service center in Arkansas (photo courtesy of Millennium Adult Day Care)

Are these programs only for people with dementia?

No, adult day service centers (also called “adult day care’) are open to any adult who needs supervision or assistance because of a physical disability, frailty, or cognitive impairment. Some programs, however, are more oriented toward people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

What is the cost, and how can I pay for it?

Average daily fees run from $40 to $60. About 30% of adult day center participants pay privately. People attending these programs are eligible for funding from a number of sources including Medicaid-waiver programs, Veteran’s contracts, and several federal entitlement programs. Guidelines for receiving these funds vary by state. Adult day service centers are usually covered by private long-term care insurance once that insurance is triggered by the person needing help with at least two “activities of daily living” (dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.) or needing supervision for their safety because of a cognitive impairment. Your local Office for the Aging should be able to help you figure out what funds are available.

What services are provided?

Adult day service center programs include meals and snacks, personal care, gentle exercise, mental stimulation, discussion groups, local outings and other activities. Some centers provide additional services such as nursing; physical, speech or occupational therapy; podiatry; psychological services; audiology; oxygen; dentistry; a beautician or barber; and massage therapy. They can usually accommodate special dietary restrictions. Some adult day centers also provide caregiver support groups.

What are the hours?

Centers are typically open 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday.

Is transportation available?

Some adult day service centers provide transportation as part of the program. If you need low-cost transportation, check with your Office for the Aging about services for the elderly and disabled in your area.

Why caregivers resist this kind of help

Despite how promising these programs sound, a lot of family caregivers resist sending their loved ones to an adult day service center. Spouses and partners, especially, often think that they should be able to provide everything for their loved one all by themselves at home. Others try to avoid spending their loved one’s hard-earned savings.

As many of you know, resisting help can lead to burn out, and often serious health problems for the caregiver. As caregivers we need time for ourselves—every one of us, every week!

To find an adult day service center in your area, ask your doctor, local senior center, or local Office for the Aging. For more information about adult day service centers, visit this A Place for Mom webpage, or the Eldercare website.

Let us know if you have tried an adult day service program, and how it went.


  1. Max Wallack

    I believe it is important for children to understand Alzheimer’s disease so they can still interact lovingly with family members who have this disease. I am a 17 year old college junior, Alzheimer’s researcher, and Alzheimer’s advocate.I grew up as a caregiver to my great grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. After her death, I founded a nonprofit organization that has distributed over 24,000 puzzles to Alzheimer’s facilities. Recently, the book I coauthored explaining Alzheimer’s disease to children became available on Amazon.My hope was to provide some helpful coping mechanisms to the many children dealing with Alzheimer’s disease among their family members. 50 percent of the profits from this book will go to Alzheimer’s causes. I think this book could help a lot of children and families.”Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in Refrigerator? A Book Explaining Alzheimer’s Disease to Children.”

  2. DanaLarsen

    Great info, Martha. I agree that Adult Day Service Centers can provide a much-needed break and stress relief for overworked caregivers. All of the caregivers I’ve communicated with who have tried Adult Day are so thankful for a little break and rejuvenation.

  3. Martha Stettinius

    You’re very welcome, Jeff!


  4. Jonathan Maxwell

    When you are ill, at that time people around you play a very important role. They are the one who can make you laugh or cry. Your surroundings play a very crucial role. All you need to have is a positive attitude. Same is the case with elder people. Elder people need special attention. You slight care can bring smile back to their face.

  5. Elder Care

    You can also get respite care where someone comes in and relieves you for a few hours or on specific days each week. This can be a real life-saver for elder care providers.

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