Deciding to look at care options for your loved one outside your home may feel like a daunting task. As a full-time caregiver, planning and researching resources early is a good idea. Adult Day Centers can be an excellent resource for families, benefiting both the caregiver and the individual with the disease who still lives at home. Adult day centers may relieve some of the stress of daily caregiving and provide a social and stimulating outlet for the individual living with memory loss.
Here are some suggestions for what to look for when choosing an Adult Day Center:
- Consider your loved one’s specific social, medical and safety needs. Make a list of these before you begin to research your local options, then you’ll know exactly what you are looking for in a Center. For example: Is the program able to administer medications at specific times? Do they have a daily exercise program or an outside walking area? Is the space secure to prevent wandering?
- Determine how far you are willing to travel, transportation availability, daily cost and the hours of operation. Some adult day centers have evening and nighttime hours available as an option.
- Assess the quality of the program: Is the staff trained to deal specifically with someone who has memory loss? What is the daily staffing ratio? Are there a number of different programs each day: news and current event discussions, exercise, therapeutic arts and music, trips or special events? Are they able to offer your loved one programs based on his specific interests, needs and strengths? Offer an example of the schedule you keep at home and see how it compares to that of the Center’s daily program. Do they serve nutritious meals daily and can they make dietary accommodations, as needed?
- Ask about specific safety features and policies in place for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Is there a plan and action policy in place if someone wanders away? Are medications, cleaners and sharp utensils locked in a secure place? Does the center’s transportation staff know that they cannot “drop off” the individual at the Center or at home alone?
- Inquire about references from other families who are currently at the center and ask if you can drop in for a day or have an extended visit to try out the program.
As you make your choices and do your research, include your loved one in the decision making process, if possible. Feeling empowered about their own choice is important to their well-being. Also, attending a day health program in the earlier part of the illness while your loved one can still adjust and make meaningful connections will help make it work best in the long run.
Remember, one of the best ways to cope as a caregiver is to take care of yourself, too. Getting regular breaks is important for your health and well-being.