The recent influx of seniors and retirees into the population has nursing homes severely overcrowded and Americans asking themselves in record numbers: "Just what is adult day care and how can it help me?" To answer this we will look at the problem as logically as we can, in a manner that can be easily understood by anyone, regardless of experience in the field or practical life experience.
Considering that the the Baby Boomer population, (the largest single demographic in the nation for many years now) will hit retirement age in force within the next 3 to 5 years, The United States Department of The Census has determined that by the year 2020, the number of US citizens over the age of 65 will surpass the number of US citizens under the age of 5 for the first time in our country's history.
These seniors can best be described in 3 basic need categories:
1. Predominantly Healthy - very active and needing no assistance with life skills such as cooking, grooming, bathing and toileting. These seniors suffer no sign of dementia or cognitive dysfunction.
2. Moderately Healthy - Still very active but requiring some life skill assistance. These seniors are largely alert and lucid and can still actively participate in most normal social activities, and most personal care practices. but may require limited assistance with cooking, grooming, bathing, or toileting.
3. Significantly Impaired - These seniors suffer from severe medical conditions or are in the advanced stages of progressively worsening illnesses such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Diseases, or any other chronic, incurable, or ultimately terminal illness which requires constant or almost constant supervision by medical staff and medically trained personnel. These seniors are not capable of providing for most of their significant daily needs and cannot function in most social settings, even with minimal or periodic assistance.
Traditionally in America, when our grandparents, parents, spouses or siblings begin to become a burden on our personal lives, or develop a dependency on us for any or all of life's basic necessities, we have developed a propensity to deposit them into nursing homes, intermediate care centers, or assisted living repositories.
Leaving moral and ethical issues aside, this fact gets even more significant when we take into account that the resources and facilities which currently exist to serve seniors in America are already inadequate for the existing senior population. Facilities and programs simply do not exist to handle the eminently impending influx of Baby Boomers who are about to retire, most of whom have nothing specifically constructive to do with their time. Those are the exact types of situations and scenarios which adult day care facilities were created to address.
Far less costly than nursing home care, intermediate care, or assisted living participation, adult day care programs are almost always at least partially covered by private insurance and medicare/medicaid, and in many cases, can be provided to qualified registrants absolutely free of out of pocket expenses.
When registered in an adult day care facility, you or your loved ones are picked up directly at your door at a pre-determined time, and transported to an established adult day care facility. Once there, various structured and supervised activities are provided to the registrants to fill their days with purpose and to allow them to mingle amongst their peers. At least one, and often two meals are provided at no additional cost during a typical program day. Since all activities are facilitated by trained staff and take place in a controlled environment, adults fitting either of the first two categories can benefit largely from participation in an adult day care program.
These adult day programs not only provide much needed function and interaction between the registrants, they also provide much needed respite for caregivers and family members who can easily grow exhausted by the increasingly demanding needs of a declining loved one.
Once the daily program is over, the registrants are redelivered directly to their homes, often with a take-home meal or snack for later in the evening sothat they can maintain a sense of self-sufficiency, and not be dependent on someone else at home to prepare an additional meal for them, particularly after returning home fro ma busy day at work or school.
As you can see, there are tremendous benefits to participating in adult day care programs. These programs help keep families together until there is absolutely no other choice, and help to preserve space in Nursing homes and medical care facilities for those people who desperately need that type of elevated care. Many programs have excellent curriculums which allow their participants to remain invigorated and vital in their daily lives and activities, but there is much more work to be done in this field to guarantee our aging loved ones are receiving the very best care and programs they can get. New facilities need to be constructed using state-of-the-art equipment and technology, and curriculums need to be established which can be customized to maximize the experience on an individual basis so that each participant maintains the potential to reap the maximum benefit from their individual adult day care experiences.
Please stay tuned for more on my series of articles pertaining to issues on aging.