A Cheaper Alternative for Respite (Adult Day Care)

June 6, 2012 - By the NCPC

Author: Elizabeth Leatham


EldercareSince the downturn of the economy, costs for health care have been on the rise. According to a 2011 market survey of long-term care costs, the national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home rose 4.4% last year from $229 in 2010 to $239 in 2011. Similarly, the national average monthly base rate in an assisted living community rose 5.6% from $3,293 in 2010 to $3,477 in 2011.

These rising costs are frightening to many young caregivers who are trying to find the best way to care for their loved one. If your loved one is suffering from dementia or other chronic diseases such as chronic hypertension, physical disability, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental illness and developmental disability, you may want to look into an adult day care program.

While the costs of adult day care rose along with other health care costs, it still remained the lowest annual rate in 2011 when compared with the annual costs of nursing homes, assisted living communities, and home care.[i] Though daily fees for adult day services vary depending upon the services provided, the national average rate for adult day centers is $61 per day (includes 8-10 hours on average) compared to an average rate for home health aids of $19 per hour.[ii] Furthermore, nearly 78 percent of adult day centers are operated on a nonprofit or public basis.[iii]

The National Adult Day Services Association describes adult day centers in this way:

“Adult day service centers provide a coordinated program of professional and compassionate services for adults in a community-based group setting. Services are designed to provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day. They also afford caregivers respite from the demanding responsibilities of caregiving.”

The adult day service is a growing industry with over 4,600 adult day centers across the United States and more than 260,000 participants.[iii] They provide aging and chronically ill adults with a small loving community. The average capacity of an adult day care center is forty adults with a recipient to staff ratio of 6:1.[ii]

Adult day care is a desirable option for those family caregivers wishing to keep loved ones who are in chronic care in their own community, at home, and among friends and family for as long as possible.

Caring for a loved one can present emotional, physical, and financial tolls that are often too difficult to manage 24/7. Adult day centers can provide family caregivers a few hours of rest and rejuvenation while your loved one spends their day engaging in social and therapeutic activities.

Still, it may be difficult to leave your loved one at a facility you know little about. Selecting an adult day care center that suits both the needs of yourself and your loved one is crucial to putting both your minds at rest. The National Adult Day Services Association suggests you visit many different centers; ask lots of questions both of the staff and previous recipients; give your center of choice a try for a few days as it will take several visits for a new setting and routine to feel comfortable; and allow yourself to relax knowing that your loved one is being cared for.

To begin your search for adult day care centers, visit the National Care Planning Council’s list of adult day services and centers in your area; contact your state’s Adult Day Services Association; ask at a local senior center; or contact your local Area Agency on Aging (800-677-1116).


[i] The MetLife Mature Market Institute, 2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs

[ii] The MetLife Market Survey of Adult Day Services & Home Care Costs, MetLife Mature Market Institute®, in conjunction with LifePlans, Inc., www.MatureMarketInstitute.com, September 2007.

[iii] National Study of Adult Day Services, 2001-2002. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Partners in Caregiving: The Adult Day Services Program, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 2002

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