Going Back to School: Adult Day Care

Going Back to School: Adult Day Care

When someone says “daycare”, what is the image that pops into your head? Primary colors abound the alphabet on the walls, and the smell of crayons heavy in the air. And obviously, children running around playing, possibly with paint from arts and crafts on their shirt or remnants of snack time on their face, with a teacher or two trying to wrangle them all in. This is what a daycare center entails… or is it? While the term daycare might be commonly associated with young children who are being cared for while their parents are in work, there is another population that has been using daycare: elderly individuals with dementia.

Adult day care centers for individuals with dementia have become increasingly popular to help engage the growing number of individuals suffering from dementia and help alleviate the stress off of their caregivers. Currently, there are 50 million people with dementia around the world, and approximately 10 million new cases are being diagnosed every single year. With this massive population that is just growing, there need to be effective ways to help minimize the suffering that the individuals and their families face.  This is where adult day care center can come into play.

One particular center in Chula Vista, California that opened up earlier this year was designed to look like a town square from the 1950’s, a time when most of these patients were young. The town has 14 activity centers that appear to be storefronts, with anything you can think of it a town: vintage clothing stores, a gas station with a Thunderbird, dinner, movie theater and more. This specific center is trying to engage the participants by using what they call reminiscence therapy, trying to promote socialization by creating an environment where their memories are more easily recalled.

Though not every center uses such elaborate techniques, simpler applications of these principles are used in other centers. They try to engage these people by allowing them to socialize and participate in a variety of activities. Some of these activities could include outings, pet therapy, counseling and therapy, health services, behavior management, along with recreational activities like music and art.

Using the Montessori method, which is commonly used to teach social, cognitive and functional skills to children, has been found to be beneficial in this setting to engage individuals socially and with their environment. This can be extremely helpful in minimizing behavioral issues that are common among dementia patients, especially apathy and agitation.  Along with potentially helping behavioral and cognitive symptoms, these patients may also foster physical improvements. This population often is associated with degrees of frailty and fall risks. By being a part of a program like this, there may be improvements in gait, especially after longer participation.

With so many people suffering from dementia, be it a specific form such as Alzheimer’s or any other form, there will also inherently be an increase in the number of people that care for them. Currently, according to the Alzheimer’s Association,  16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Caring for someone with dementia can take an incredible toll on caregivers, one-third of who are 65 years old and older. The sandwich generation, as they are called, are responsible for not only caring for an aging family member but also a child under 18. These individuals make up approximately one-fourth of all caregivers. Could using an adult daycare service be beneficial to the caregivers, on top of being helpful for those with dementia?

The short answer: yes! Studies have shown that after only a three month period, caregivers who used an adult daycare service had significantly fewer feelings of overload and strain, as well as lower levels of depression and anger. The reasoning for this may be that having the adult daycare gives the caregiver more time to do other necessary tasks, allowing them to feel less stressed. It was also found that for caregivers with a family member that had their memory symptoms improve when using the adult daycare, there was a correlation with a reduction of overload, or feeling mental and emotionally drained.

By away giving a break to the caregiver and an avenue for socialization for someone with dementia, adult day care seems to be an amazing opportunity. Hopefully, this will become more accessible to a greater number of people, with increasing the number of locations worldwide and decreasing the cost or having this service be covered by more insurances. To find out more information about how to find an adult day care center near you, check out the Alzheimer’s Association’s resources!  


Adult Day Centers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/care-options/adult-day-centers

Dementia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia

Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures

Hageman, P. A., & Thomas, V. S. (2002). Gait performance in dementia: The effects of a 6-week resistance training program in an adult day-care setting. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17(4), 329-334. doi:10.1002/gps.597

Judge, K. S., Camp, C. J., & Orsulic-Jeras, S. (2000). Use of Montessori-based activities for clients with dementia in adult day care: Effects on engagement. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease, 15(1), 42-46. doi:10.1177/153331750001500105

Powell, R., & Pawlowski, A. (2018, April 10). Dementia day care looks like 1950s town to stimulate patients’ memories. Retrieved from https://www.today.com/health/dementia-day-care-looks-1950s-stimulate-patients-brains-t126727

Steven H. Zarit, Mary Ann Parris Stephens, Aloen Townsend, Rickey Greene; Stress Reduction for Family Caregivers: Effects of Adult Day Care Use, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 53B, Issue 5, 1 September 1998, Pages S267–S277,

Zarit, S. H., Stephens, M. A., Townsend, A., & Greene, R. (1998). Stress Reduction for Family Caregivers: Effects of Adult Day Care Use. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 53B(5). doi:10.1093/geronb/53b.5.s26

Julianna Casella

JULIANNA CASELLA (WRITING INTERN) I have always found medicine and neuroscience to be extremely facistinating, and I wanted to find a way to combine these two passions into my future career. Once I took Introduction to Psychology, I knew that this was a field that I wanted to spend the rest of my academic career gaining a deeper understanding about. The more psychology courses I take, the more I fall in love with this field, and want to educate more people about how important it is to take care of your mental health, just like your physical health. After my internship at NYU Langone’s Rusk Center for Rehabilitation Psychology department, I have realized the impact that psychological and neurological disorders can have on an individual, and the importance of educating the general population about these struggles. I hope that my future work as a clinical psychologist, along with my work with The Humanology Project, will help in this goal of educating more people about mental health problems and minimizing stigma about these issues. You can often find me crying over the latest episode of This is Us, playing board games with my friends, or singing show tunes.

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