Adult Day Services: Where Benefits for Participants and Caregivers Converge

by Emily Mysel, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. Manager, The Friend Center for Memory Care

For many family members, it can be an emotionally-charged experience the first time their loved one is dropped off at an Adult Day Services (ADS) program for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. The primary caregiver may be unsure of how their loved one will respond to this new environment. Or their loved one may become frightened and feel a sense of abandonment. However, once caregivers and their loved ones become more familiar with the program, an incredible sense of community often evolves.

What exactly are Adult Day Services? ADS programs were established over thirty years ago, and are for individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder and still living in their family home, by providing a safe, group setting and stimulating activities for a period of time each day. For caregivers whose loved ones participate in an ADS program, this may be the only time when they can take care of their own needs, like going to the doctor or taking an exercise class.

Currently, there are more than 4,600 adult day programs across the United States, an increase of 35% since 2002. And that need is expected to grow.

ADS programs are designed to engage each client in a way that will provide a personalized sense of contentment and enjoyment. Many times, as the disease progresses, friendships can dwindle. Yet socialization is especially vital for individuals diagnosed with cognitive impairment. ADS programs provide the opportunity for clients to interact with one another and communicate at the same level, which can provide a sense of well- being and reassurance. At CJE’s ADS Program, a host of creative programs such as music, arts and dance are also offered to stimulate participants cognitively and to remind them of joyful times in their lives.

Another goal of ADS is to alleviate caregiver stress and burnout. Often, caregivers ignore their own medical, physical and social needs because they are overwhelmed with caregiving duties. Just as flight attendants remind parents of young children to first put on their own oxygen masks, caregivers’ needs must be met first before they can provide optimal care for their loved ones. It is crucial for caregivers to find ways to recharge—such as having lunch with friends or seeing a movie. This is much easier if they are confident that their loved ones are also safe and socially engaged.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be 13.8 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a study conducted in 2014 by AARP, caregivers whose loved ones attend ADS two times a week enjoy more psychological and physical benefits than those whose loved ones do not attend. Caregivers were found to be less angry and depressed the days their loved ones attended ADS. Also, many caregivers develop their own sense of community. They bond together, creating lasting and meaningful relationships.

Thus, ADS does not just benefit the person with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, but the family superstructure. It is a place where support is continuous throughout the journey of the disease and provides a sense of security, love and acceptance.

At CJE’s ADS programs in Deerfield and Evanston, professional staff is available to offer support and help to alleviate the sense of isolation and loneliness experienced by many caregivers. Monthly caregiver support groups help to connect caregivers and provide reassurance that they are not alone.

On September 27, 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the third week in September National Adult Day Services Week to raise awareness of the availability and accessibility of adult day programs nationwide. On June 5, 2004, he passed away ten years after his Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. To learn more about the history and benefits of ADS, check out the National Adult Day Services Association at NADSA.org.

Find out more about how CJE’s Adult Day Services in our three locations (Deerfield, Evanston and downtown Chicago) can engage and support your loved one with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder and provide you with a well-deserved break from the demands of caregiving. Call 773.508.1000 for more information.