According to a 2012 report from the Alzheimer’s Association, over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for the one in eight older American with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
But a diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean that a loved one must be placed in long-term or nursing care. My husband Dan and I cared for my father and my mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in our home for five years. During that time, we found a dementia-related adult day service program that provided the specific type of mental stimulation Mom needed. She attended this program several days a week. It not only provided respite for Dan and me as caregivers, but the program helped preserve and extend my mom’s quality of life.
Adult day services (ADS) benefit both care recipients and family caregivers. Our program was offered at a site sponsored by our Area Agency on Aging and offered the following benefits for the care recipients (in this case, my mom and dad):
- cognitive programs geared to stimulate the specific needs of those with dementias and Alzheimer’s
- a supportive environment for my father, who attended with my mother
- much-needed social interaction
- music therapy, art therapy, and educational programs I could not provide at home
Adult day services also offer valuable benefits to caregivers:
- much-needed breaks for social interaction or rest
- time to focus on work
- time to focus on other family members
Dan and I were even able to access transportation that picked my parents up at our doorstep and delivered them safely to their caregiving location.
I’m convinced that adult day services extended my mother’s quality of life, and I’m enormously grateful for the staff there who helped educate our family as my mother progressed through the various stages of Alzheimer’s.
So how do you sign up?
Check with the Area Agency on Aging in your community to find a location near you. Schedule a visit and take a tour. Talk with the director and other staff. You may find that different facilities offer different programming. Ask about transportation, meals, services (for instance, the program that provided care for my mother also bathed her), and respite vouchers. And ask if they offer a list of referrals.