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Understanding Day Programs

Day Programs, sometimes known as Community-Based Adult Services, are an alternative to homemaker services and are more cost-effective and allow the elder to remain at home as well as support their social well-being.  Adult Day Programs are for seniors who are not safe on their own but do not require 24-hour care. 


Common services offered at adult day programs:

  • Counseling

  • Education

  • Evening care

  • Exercise

  • Health screening

  • Meals

  • Medical care

Day Program Costs:

Prices can vary, depending on factors such as geographic region and range of services. The median cost across the U.S. is $1,690 per month, or $78 per day, according to the 2021 “Cost of Care” survey from long-term care insurance company Genworth. 

Original Medicare doesn't cover the cost of adult day programs, but Medicare Advantage plans may offer expanded coverage. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid programs will cover the cost of adult day programs. Please refer to Mellie’s Medicaid document for additional information.


When to consider adult day services:
Caregivers should look into day programs when they start seeing signs that their loved one:

  • Is unable to structure his or her daily activities.

  • Feels isolated and lonely and wishes to interact with other older people.

  • Experiences anxiety or depression and needs social and emotional support.

  • Has difficulty starting and focusing on an activity, whether it’s a conversation, reading, or watching TV.

  • Seems not to be safe on his or her own or feels uncertain and anxious about being alone.

Evaluating Adult Day programs
Once you identify a center that seems to meet your loved one’s needs, the next step is to visit the center. 

Here are sample questions to ask adult day centers:

  • How long has the center been in operation?

  • What licenses, certifications, and accreditation does it have?

  • What’s the ratio of staff to attendees (the lower the better), and what kind of training do employees receive?

  • What days and hours is it open?

  • What is the policy for late arrivals or pickups if you don’t use the transit services that are provided?

  • Does your center create individual service plans for attendees? If so, how often those plans are updated, and can I provide input?


You’ll also want to explore the facility’s full range of services.

  • Does it offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy? (Nearly half the of centers do.)

  • Does it have specialized care for conditions such as memory loss?

Spend some time simply observing the center itself.

  • Does it seem clean and generally pleasant?

  • Is the furniture comfortable and sturdy, and is the facility wheelchair accessible?

  • Is there a quiet area where your loved one can relax if they need a break?

  • Are the restrooms conveniently located and outfitted with grab bars and space for wheelchairs? 

  • Pay attention, too, to how the staff and clients interact and whether they seem comfortable with one another.

Helping your loved one adjust
The transition to adult day care can be stressful for an older person with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests a gradual approach. 
Once you’ve vetted a center, take your loved one there for lunch or an activity. Then start using its services a couple of times a week, for a month or so, before making a final decision about enrolling.

Your family member may resist adult day care at first, but participants often warm to it after several weeks and begin looking forward to seeing other people at the center and engaging in activities. If the program doesn’t seem to be working for your family member, you might remove them from it and reintroduce them to it at another time.

  • Medication management

  • Physical therapy

  • Recreation

  • Respite care

  • Socialization

  • Supervision

  • Transportation

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