Adult Day Care

Adult Day Care for Seniors

Adult day care is an option for senior living that allows elderly adults to be cared for in a daytime facility. In fact, the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) reports that more than 150,000 seniors utilized day care services on a daily basis among a total of 5,684 adult day care centers in the US, as of 2014. This type of senior care provides aging adults with medical services, cognitive stimulation, social interaction, educational activities, meals, and in some cases transportation to and from the facility.

To help you determine if adult day care is a viable option for your needs, here is a list of questions to ask when choosing adult day care. In addition, you will learn about the types of adult day care, along with benefits, services, and activities available in this type of senior housing facility.

What Should I Do Before Selecting a Day Care for Seniors?

Before choosing any adult day care service, visit the facility to provide a visual check and learn more about the center. Speak with the staff members to help you determine if this is the right center for your senior family member or loved one. Try to talk to people who are attending the center to see what they have to say regarding the day care service. Also, find out what the overall cost will be for the center, and get all of the paperwork and documentation available. Read through everything and mark any areas of concern or note any questions you may have, and get clarification in writing before you sign any contracts for service.

Questions to Ask When Choosing Adult Day Care

  1. What is Adult Day Care? – An adult day care service is a professionally managed environment for older adults. Typically this type of facility caters to adults who have dementia or disabilities. In addition to providing a safe and secure setting for the adults during the daytime hours, an adult day care also offers specialized activities. These often include physical therapy, social engagement, and health care services that are tailored toward this age demographic.
  2. What Services are Offered at Adult Day Care Centers? – In addition to meals and supervision, adult day care centers provide services aimed at the needs of this age group. This can include counseling and physical therapy to help seniors overcome emotional or physical needs. To help seniors boost their health and wellness, day care centers often offer exercises and recreational outlets, as well as health screenings, medication management, and onsite medical care. As a form of respite care, some senior centers offer evening care to help caregivers who may work or otherwise be unavailable during these hours. Additionally, some adult day cares provide transportation to and from the center each day.
  3. What Kind of Specialized Activities and Programs are Typically Available? – According to the National Adult Day Services Association, in the US 90 percent of day care centers for adults provide cognitive stimulation. These types of programs may include card games, board games, and creative projects, such as quilting or putting together puzzles. Among adult day care centers approximately 80 percent offer memory training, such as through mental stimulation games or social engagement that encourages a recall of previous events. Seventy-five percent of adult day service providers offer educational programs. These may include hosting book groups, having current events discussions, or doing crosswords.
  4. Is There Adult Day Care Near Me? – To find out if there is adult day care center near you, start by searching online for adult day care centers. However, avoid choosing the first center you see in your search engine results. The most common issue is that some states do not license and regulate this type of senior day care service. As a result, the center you choose could be unregulated and possibly detrimental to the seniors.
  5. What is the sponsoring organization of the adult day care? Is it a religiously affiliated, government-backed, or corporate run center? From this information, you can do additional research about the sponsor to see what kind of reputation or reviews are noted about them. For example, you can check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the sponsoring organization has complaints filed against them.
  6. Who owns the adult day care center? Is this an individual or another business? Do your research to find out more information about the owner to help guide your decision.
  7. Is the adult day care center licensed in the city, county, or state?
  8. What are the credentials of the staff, activity providers, and other workers who will be in contact with the senior adults while they are in day care?
  9. How many people are on staff in relation to the number of patients, i.e., staff to patient ratio? The NADSA notes that the average ratio is one staff member to every six patients.
  10. What is the results of the current food service, health, and safety inspections of the facilities of the day care?
  11. What is the history of the center? How long has it been open, and has it ever been shut down for any reason?
  12. When does the day care open and close each day? What days is it open? Will the center be open during federal or state holidays?
  13. What is the policy for payment if a senior is unable to go to the day care on occasion, such as due to health reasons? Would you be responsible for paying for the full week or is there a discount for days missed?
  14. Does the adult day care provide transportation for seniors to the center? If so, what type of vehicle is used and is it equipped to handle wheelchairs, walkers, and other aids? Is the vehicle easily accessible by individuals with special needs? Does the vehicle have seat belts and/or other applicable safety devices? Who is the driver and do they have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) Class B that permits them to carry passengers?
  15. Are adults with special conditions, such as health issues, mental health needs, incontinence, disabilities, limited mobility, or chronic illnesses, accepted? If so, are there requirements for the day care regarding extra payment in the instance that specialized care is needed? Are there any health conditions that would prohibit a senior from staying in the day care?
  16. What kind of activities are provided for seniors? How often are these available, and do seniors have to sign up, register, or pay additional for these activities? Is there a schedule of events available on a monthly basis for seniors and their caregivers? Do any of the activities require leaving the senior day care, and if so, will transportation be provided? If so, follow up with the questions previously noted about transportation services.
  17. Does the adult day care provide meals and snacks as part of the program, or is there an additional fee? Does the senior need or are they able to bring their own food? Does the day care accommodate to special meal services, such as liquid diets, intravenous feeding, spoon feeding, etc.? What about special diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or low sugar diet plans; will the day care accommodate for these?

To ensure you select a reputable service provider is to use the Eldercare Locator tool provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Search by zip code or city and state to find adult day care programs near you that have the seal of approval by the DHHS. You should also reach out to your state’s chapter of the National Adult Day Service Association. Thirty-two states currently have a partnering association with the NADSA that will be able to provide you with state-specific information, tools, and resources for choosing an adult day care center.

How Much Does Adult Day Care Cost?

Adult care care costs vary according to geographical location, demand for services, and programs offered by the facility. According to the DHHS, care ranges from $25 to more than $100 for a day of care, which is anywhere from $125 to $500 or more a week.

Those are some of the most common questions asked about caregivers and seniors who are interested in senior day care services. Now let’s focus on the different types of day care for adults, as well as additional information about costs, paying for services, and benefits of adult day care.

Types of Adult Day Care

Transitional Day Care Services

In an adult day care that provides transitional care, this type of senior living offers short-term rehabilitation after a hospital stay. For example, if an adult has been admitted in the hospital for heart surgery, they are not quite physically able to stay on their own and they often need help with taking the plethora of prescription medications doled out to them after the surgery. In this case, the senior would go to an adult day care center during the day to ensure they are being cared for in a safe environment with medical supervision.

Congregational Day Care Centers

Religious groups near you may provide adult day care services. These are sponsored by religious organizations that may also offer the physical space for the day care. For instance, larger, national religious groups, such as Catholic Social Services, will provide funding, staff, facilities, and services for Catholic based adult day care centers.

Active Adult Day Care Facilities

For adults who are entering their senior years but without medical issues or physical needs, there are active adult day care facilities. These centers are focused more on providing socialization, exercise, community outings, and senior volunteer opportunities. The goal is to give seniors somewhere to go during the day so they remain in touch with other adults their age.

Adult Day Care and Palliative Services

One specific type of adult day care that is geared toward adults suffering from chronic or debilitating health issues is palliative care. This is a type of day care facility that works in conjunction with a team of medical providers. With this adult day care service, the senior will go to the adult day care facility where they will receive specialized care to meet their health needs. Then after the senior leaves adult day care each day, the next partner in palliative care steps in, which may include home care providers or caregivers trained to provide specialized care.

In palliative care, the adult day care provider is only one part of the team of doctors, nurses, and specialists working in a group to provide additional support for the individual. Seniors who need palliative care are suffering from serious health issues or illnesses, such as kidney disease, congestive heart failure, or cancer. This is not end-of-life care, in that with palliative care the goal is to improve the health and wellness of the senior adult.

Military Veteran Adult Day Services

Through the US Department of Veterans Affairs, you can sign up for military veteran adult day services. Adult Day Health Care is a program solely for military veterans. This program is offered by local VA medical hospitals and State Veterans homes. Some community organizations also provide Adult Day Health Care for the VA. Adult Day Health Care is available for full day or half day care.

Typically a veteran would go to the center two to three days per week, but they are permitted to go every day. The center provides skilled services, such as bathing, getting dressed, preparing meals, and providing medication. All veterans who are enrolled in the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package are eligible to receive Adult Day Health Care services, have a clinical need, and space is available.

Memory Care

For patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, specialized memory care includes services to cover these medical issues. When a senior has Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia their mental functions and memory are slowly destroyed. This is due to brain cell degeneration that cannot be cured. However, with the treatment at Alzheimer’s day care patients can slow the progression or improve symptoms.

Dementia day care offers specialized senior care for patients with a group of conditions that impair brain functions. These functions are judgment and memory loss. Seniors who suffer from dementia experience limited thinking abilities, forgetfulness, and a loss of social skills. Dementia also causes sufferers to be unable to handle daily functions, such as preparing meals and remembering to take medications.

Memory day care provides Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with a safe place to stay during the daytime. In addition, at memory care facilities patients are provided with cognitive therapy and memory training to help them regain lost brain connections associated with this brain disorder.

Senior Day Care vs Other Senior Living Options

The primary reason why seniors choose to go to adult day care is to receive limited care during the daytime hours. Typically a day care facility is only open from around 7 am to 6 pm. This timing is on par with the typical working day of caregivers and loved ones who may be responsible for caring for a senior. By taking a senior to adult care facilities during the day, a caregiver can rest assured that they are being provided with professional treatment, age-related socialization, and opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing.

Unlike nursing homes or a retirement community, seniors at adult day care return to their own residents or the homes of a loved one at the end of each day. Additionally, at an adult day service provider, seniors have most of their autonomy. They are not bedridden and do not require 24/7 on-call medical support. Day care facilities are also based on socialization due to the group nature of these facilities. This differs from in-home senior care that would limit the amount of socializing a senior is able to have.

Senior day care is also a more affordable option for senior living due to the low-impact type of services that are provided. Compared to a senior cooperative, nursing home, hospice care in a facility, or assisted living, day care facilities cost far less. However, the costs do increase when adult day care involves specialized care, such as with Alzheimer’s day care, dementia day care, or palliative care for seniors. As you can imagine, the more specialized the services that are required, the more that the senior day care will cost.

Costs and Paying for Adult Day Care

When it comes to paying for adult day care, the cost is the biggest factor for most seniors and their caregivers. If you do not need to have any type of specialized care, then you may find day care services at around $25 per day. However, if you require advanced care, need regular medical attention, or want more activity options, the price tag can easily exceed $100 a day. What you actually pay will depend on what type of discount you receive thanks to insurance benefits, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

The four most common ways of paying for adult day care are with:

  • Medicare
  • Private insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Veteran’s programs


All seniors receive Medicare, which is the national form of social insurance for senior citizens. However, Medicare does not cover any costs associated with adult day care services. So if you only have Medicare insurance, then chances are you will not receive any financial assistance from your insurance coverage.

Private Insurance

If you have private health care coverage, contact your insurance agent to see if they offer benefits to help you pay for some or all of adult day care services.


Medicaid is the national form of health insurance for low-income individuals. You must qualify with a low income in order to receive Medicaid. Additionally, you would have to apply to your local Department of Health and Human Services for Medicaid. It does not occur simply based on age or due to a low-income status. If you have Medicaid, this will pay for adult day care no matter what state you live in.

Contact your local Medicaid office and request information regarding Home and Community Based Services Medicaid Waivers also known as 1915 Waivers. These waivers are used to finance senior living other than the use of nursing home facilities. One issue with these waivers is that there are often wait lists that cause a delay in receiving such benefits. You can also apply for benefits through Medicaid State Plans. This funding can be used to pay for adult day care services until you are granted a 1915 Waiver.

Military Veteran Benefits

If you were in the military and have veteran’s benefits including VHA medical benefits, veterans’ pension, or Veterans Directed Care benefits, you can use those to pay for adult day care. Keep in mind you need to have the VHA medical benefits package to receive funding for adult day care. The other types of veterans’ coverage only provide adult day health care services.

Benefits of Senior Day Care

By going to senior day care, elderly adults can overcome a host of age-related issues including depression, loneliness, fatigue, and loss of brain function. Seniors are able to socialize, learn, move, and experience daily routines under the guidance of professional caregivers. At the same time, caregivers who are responsible for seniors are able to have a respite period. This is necessary for preventing caregiver burnout.

Overall, the choice of adult day care is an ideal solution for caregivers and seniors who are not ready or do not need to transition to a full-time care facility, such as a nursing home or retirement community. Adult day care provides just enough interaction and stimulation in a controlled environment, without forcing the seniors to experience a complete upheaval in their own home setting. By using this guide you are fully prepared to choose the best type of adult day care for the senior in your life.