Adult Day Programs: Pt. 1

“Adult Day Services allows me to continue to work and know that my husband is receiving wonderful care from very caring people. They also support me in both working through difficult times and through prayer. Your program is a godsend!”

Care is an essential aspect of life. Rosalynn Carter puts it in perspective, stating, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those in need of caregiving.” As our country’s population ages, our elder care needs will rise. The U.S. government projects that older adults aged 65 and older represent more than one and every five Americans by 2030.

A growing number of older Americans express the desire to remain in their homes and communities throughout their later years. Most will require daily support to achieve this goal. Adult Day Service (ADS) centers, which provide social, health, and therapeutic group activities and support the daily living needs of adults in community-based, non-residential settings, are uniquely positioned to help elders age-in-place. ADS centers benefit adults living with functional and cognitive impairments, their care partners, and their health care systems. In this three-part series on adult day services, we will explore facts and stories that describe the need for ADS, the types of programs and their services, and a profile of its participants.

The Need for Adult Day Services

Caregiving has become a shared experience for many American families. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), 34.2 million Americans provided informal care to adults aged 50 or older in 2015. Family members often experience a difficult time adjusting to and maintaining the role of the care partner, even when their efforts are motivated by deep love and filial responsibility. Dr. Steven Zarit defined caregiving burden as “the extent to which caregivers perceived their emotional or physical health, social life, and financial status as suffering as the result of caring for their relative.”

Spousal Care Partners

For many care partners caring directly for their loved ones is considered a blessing. The FCA reported that the average age of a spousal care partner is 62.3 years old. They provide 44.6 hours per week caring for their loved ones for approximately four years. Military spouses are more likely to be younger, employed, with an absent or weaker support system, and provide direct care six years longer. With lower birth rates and more child-free marriages, the number of married care partners will rise.

The psychological and physical changes that come with caregiving responsibilities may overwhelm a spousal care partners’ coping ability. The traditional belief that providing care for their spouse is their sole responsibility increases their vulnerability to the caregiving burden. One-third of married care partners report fair to poor emotional, physical, and cognitive health. Older spousal care partners tend to deprioritize, neglect, and/or fail to disclose their declining health. Those willing to report their experience often report activity-limiting pain, mobility issues, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular conditions, and the worsening of pre-existing chronic conditions. The sobering reality is that some spousal caregivers precede their loved ones in death.

Adult Children & Parents as Care Partners

“I truly believe that Adult Day Services is largely responsible for the fact we still have our mom with us!”

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 42 percent of family caregivers are adult children caring for their parent/s. The average age of adult children care partners is between 50 to 64, a busy season of life, many of whom care for both younger and older family members. Most of them live separately from their parents, approximately 20 minutes away, except for parents in rural communities.

Some aging parents provide primary care for their dependent adult children, often within their homes. Most middle-aged children must balance care with their numerous personal responsibilities, such as work, community service, and caring for their grandchildren. As they experience age-related changes in their physical and cognitive health, parental caregivers are at greater risk for caregiving burden.

Family Caregiving Today

An absent or weak support system is another risk factor for a caregiving burden. Family caregiving researchers affirm that healthy and effective family care develops from a circle of support, not a single individual. According to the Institute on Aging, more than 75 percent of caregivers are female and spend upwards of 50 percent more time caregiving than their male family members. An exception is older spousal caregivers who provide care equally. Unlike in the past, most parents, wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law, who care for their loved ones with functional and cognitive limitations, also work full-time and are often knee-deep in raising their children/grandchildren. Balancing multiple roles with limited time, energy, support, and practical resources can create tremendous stress for the care partner and family. In most cases, it is not a viable path to walk alone.

Adult Day Services Benefits for the Care Partner

“I am thankful for the support that Adult Day Services provided to me to guide me through this new and everchanging normal.”

Adult Day Services can provide a much-needed break for care partners. Care partners on average receive seven hours of respite each day compared with less than two on non-ADS days. Family caregiving research reports the daily benefits of ADS for care partners with work-caregiving strain and social and emotional support. These benefits extend not only when they are at the center but also from the anticipation of respite during their loved one’s upcoming visit. The relief of knowing their loved ones are safe, well cared for by trained staff, and experiencing therapeutic activities in their absence helps. It can build one’s resilience and decrease worry, stress, and the caregiving burden. Family care partners helping their loved ones live in their own homes and community as they age. ADS centers recognize the great need and seek to fortify family care partners along their journey is a fundamental mission of ADS centers.

For more information on Adult Day Services contact:

Anne Pott – Gerontologist
Regenerations Adult Day Club Director