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Adult Day Care: How to Support a Resistant Parent

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerDecember 4, 2017

Caring for an aging family member can be emotionally and physically draining, especially when your loved one can no longer complete daily activities on their own.

For many Americans – 41.3 million or 16% of people aged 15 years or older – the reality of caring for a grandparent, parent or spouse is a part of daily life. This is usually in addition to other responsibilities, such as caring for other family members, including dependent children.

Family Caregivers

The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that more than 1 in 6 Americans who work outside of the home also provide care to an elderly loved one. Employed caregivers work on average 34.7 hours a week and the vast majority have indicated that “this assistance significantly affected their work life.”

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In addition to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2015-16, there were 8.7 million people providing unpaid care to elderly loved ones, while also caring for children under the age of 18 living at home. The term “sandwich generation” was coined for this unique group “because they are in between two generations that require care.”

With statistics such as these, it is clear that caregivers are often required to take on more than they can reasonably handle. The dual roles that they take on can result in work-related difficulties, as well as burnout and stress.

While the majority of caregivers report finding pleasure and purpose in providing care for their loved one – 88% consider it rewarding – it is clear that striking a balance is key.

Is An Adult Day Care Program the Answer?

Adult day care programs and services are a great care option for older adults with varying levels of need, offering a variety of activities, assistance and supervision. Currently in the U.S., there are more than 5,000 adult day services, supporting 260,000 elderly clients and their families.

Despite the support, the prospect of attending a program can be intimidating for a senior, who may be overwhelmed with the reality of interacting with a new social group and establishing a new routine.

How will you find the right adult day care program for your senior loved one? With so many different options to choose from, it is important to consider your senior’s abilities and needs, as well as the needs of your family. An article published by AARP suggests these considerations:

  • Are the staff and volunteers well trained and qualified?
  • Does the program follow existing federal/state guidelines?
  • Does the program provide an active, individualized program that meets your parent’s social and recreational needs?
  • Does the program refer clients to other community services for older adults?
  • What special services are offered? (Meals, personal care and transportation?)

Supporting a Resistance Parent

Mary Ellen Player, a coordinator and registered nurse of an esteemed adult day care program in Ontario, Canada, suggests highlighting the positive aspects when encouraging your loved one to consider enrolling in a day program, such as:

  • Enjoying little luxuries, like nail-care services or a state of the art whirlpool tub
  • Learning something new or trying an activity they have always wanted to experience
  • Making new friends
  • Tasting a new food – “We always have dessert!,” Player says.

By focusing on these positives, you can help your parent see the benefits of attending a program.

Player suggests avoiding the term “day care” when describing an adult day program. “It has a negative connotation for many seniors and can make then feel that they can no longer be left alone or care for themselves,” she says. “A grown adult with a lifetime of experience does not want to be told they need a babysitter.” Instead, try using neutral language such as “the program” or “the center.”

Slowly introducing your loved one to a day program will help them to feel more comfortable with the idea, and not overwhelm them. Stop in for coffee and lighthearted tour, so your parent can get the lay of the land and know what to expect on their first day.

Also, introduce a light schedule for the first week or two, with part-time days filled with fun activities. This slow approach will help your loved one feel involved in the process and allow them to maintain a sense of control with their new routine. Player suggests that measuring time in small increments is more manageable for a resistant client, and she often suggests that they “just try one day…you may surprise yourself!”

Data published by the Pew Research Center suggests that among adults with at least one parent age 65 or older, 30% say that their aging parent or parents need help to handle their affairs or care for themselves. Adult day care programs are a great solution for families, and offer so much more than just an engaging and safe environment for elderly seniors. They allow families to juggle the multiple responsibilities of everyday life and prevent caregiver burnout.

Has your loved one attended adult day care programs? Share your experiences and stories with us in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler
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