The number of adult day services centers has jumped 35 percent in the past eight years as families require more help to care for aging relatives, a new study found.
These centers, which provide daytime care to elderly and disabled individuals, currently serve about 260,000 people, an increase of more than 100,000 since 2002, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute. More than one half of those relying on the nation's 4,600 centers are women aged 65 and older who suffer from dementia or another physical disability.
Currently, nearly one third of centers have waiting lists, thanks, in part, to growing demands of an aging population. Centers also have been boosted by the national healthcare overhaul and Medicare's increased focus on managing chronic illness.
In response, centers have upgraded their staff and services in recent years. They are becoming an attractive option, for example, for boomer caregivers and their elderly parents. Many older Americans want to age at home, but still require supervision.
"We're seeing that more and more adult day services centers have become a staple in communities in recent years," said Dr. Sandra Timmermann, director of the institute.
As an alternative to nursing homes, adult day services centers provide care in a "supportive, professionally staffed, community-based setting," Dr. Timmerman added.
The average daily cost of care is $68.89 per person, based on a sample of 557 services centers, or about $345 a week - not cheap, but far less expensive than a nursing home. They run about $1,550 a week on average but include a much wider range of support services, a semi-private room and round-the-clock care.
Most operate Mondays through Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in a 1,000 to 5,000 square foot facility. That benefits family caregivers by enabling them to remain in the workforce, or receive needed breaks.
Most centers provide programs for caregivers, too, including education, support groups and individual counseling.
To be sure, some centers have been closing while others open. In California, for example, publicly supported adult care centers have been cutting back service in response to the state's budget crisis, even as the need rises.
Staffed to Help
For older participants' part, they receive special attention to address memory decline or loss of motor skills. The majority of centers have "cognitive stimulation programs," while 80 percent have memory training.
Staff upgrades make a lot of these services available. About 80 percent of centers have a professional nursing staff, and half have a social work professional. Half also provide physical, occupational or speech therapy.
"The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and an increasing focus on managing chronic illness within the Medicare program, speaks to the importance of developing care models such as Adult Day Services to meet the needs of a growing population of older Americans," Dr. Timmerman said.