Baby Boomers, more than 77 million strong, are also known as the Sandwich Generation. They are the ones raising their own kids and having to care for their aging parents at the same time. In one way, an enviable position to be in for those whose parents are in good health and maintain an active lifestyle. But for other Boomers whose parents have chronic health issues, are isolated or depressed, the responsibility can be overwhelming to the caregiver.

One solution that could bring some relief is a community-based program known as adult day care. There are more than 4,000 centers across the country with more than 78 percent operating on a non-profit basis. All medical model adult day health care programs are affiliated and licensed under nursing homes. If you are considering an adult day health care program, here are some tips to help you get started in choosing the one best suited for your loved one.

Selecting the Appropriate Adult Day Health Care Model

First, decide which type of adult day health care program you need. The two types are: medical and social.

  • Medical Model Adult Day Health Care Program: The medical model program offers adults who are chronically ill or in need of health monitoring access to nursing care, rehabilitation therapy, social work services, and assistance with personal care. Medical model programs have a registered nurse and rehabilitation therapists on site. 
  • Social Model Adult Day Health Care Program: This is the most common type of adult day center. The main function of the social model is to provide seniors with supervised care in a safe environment, as well as a place to socialize and stay physically and mentally active.

Round-Trip Transportation is Key

Most adult day health care programs provide door-to-door, round-trip transportation. The vans should be equipped with an electronic lift and other equipment to accommodate people in wheelchairs, walkers or canes.

Trust Your Instincts

 As Barbara Walters, the television celebrity and news personality says, “Trust your gut.” Ask yourself some questions when visiting the adult day care health care programs. What’s the first impression you have after walking through the door? Are the staff and patients happily engaged in activities together? Are the recreation and dining areas clean? Are the walls brightly decorated with patients’ artwork? Are there people who speak my language or come from a similar background? Are the activities offered age appropriate for my loved one? Trust your gut!

Emergency and Safety Plans

Every adult day health care program must have a medical and safety emergency plan. Ask the program’s director or the person who takes you on a tour to show you the written plan. Feel free to ask questions. For example, you could ask: What’s the procedure if someone goes into diabetic shock; or if someone falls? In an emergency, how are clients evacuated from the center? When touring the facility, notice if there are smoke detectors mounted on the walls. Do you see fire extinguishers? Ask if they have a defibrillator on the premise. Safety first!

Activities for All

Adult day health care programs should have a posted weekly or monthly calendar of activities and events. If it’s not already posted, ask for it when you’re on your tour. Offerings should range from group activities such as exercise programs and drumming circles to activities such as arts and crafts, dominoes, or crocheting. Ask whether they provide trips to museums, shopping malls, baseball games or the local theater. Do they bring in outside guests to entertain, educate or inform individuals? It will quickly become apparent if the program is going the extra step to keep individuals motivated and actively engaged.

You Are What You Eat

Adult day health care programs generally provide at least one healthy meal and a snack during the day. Specialty diets, such as low sodium, low sugar and low cholesterol are accommodated at most programs. Ask the center for a copy of their weekly or monthly menu and, if possible during your tour, taste the food.

Personal Grooming Is So Important

Your loved one may need some assistance with personal grooming. Does the program have adequate staff to handle those needs, such as toileting, showering and other personal care? And, for those folks who are incontinent, does the staff handle toileting with sensitivity allowing the individual to maintain their dignity.

The Choice is Yours

After evaluating and experiencing a few adult day health care programs, seeing the range of activities and enthusiasm of the staff, taking a look at the menus and simply “getting the feel” of the programs, you’ll be in a better position to select the program that you feel is the most appropriate for your loved one. It’s also a good idea to speak with participants about how they feel about the program while you are on your tour.

But in the end, the choice is yours. And remember, “Trust your gut.”


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Written by Naomi Berger, staff writer.