Written by Chris Hawkins
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Senior Care & Assisted Living

Adult day care centers have filled a crucial gap in the senior living care market, allowing seniors to delay the need for an assisted living facility or nursing home. Adult day care facilities provide socialization and care services to seniors while also providing a needed break for their caregivers. We’ll show you what you can expect from these specialized senior care centers.

Why Adult Day Care?

Many seniors are in a situation where their needs aren’t being met at home. These needs can be as simple as wanting regular socialization with their peers to a more crucial need such as needing help managing a chronic disease such as diabetes. If they are receiving some assistance at home from a caregiver (friend, family member), these caregivers often are trained to handle a senior’s increasing needs nor do they have the time.

While these needs can certainly be filled with institutionalized care such as assisted living and nursing homes, these types of senior care options aren’t always possible for a variety of reasons, mostly financial.

Adult day care fills these needs for over 260,000 seniors and their caregivers. They provide a number of important day-to-day services and activities designed to maintain health, enhance self-esteem and to increase overall quality of life.

Types of Adult Day Care

As you search adult day care centers in your area, you’ll likely find three types of facilities:


Social adult day care centers provide recreation, meals and some level of health services. Medical facilities are staffed by nurses and social workers and typically provide medication management, health monitoring, disease management, physical therapy and podiatry services. Specialized adult day care facilities focus on specific care such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some adult day care facilities offer a combination of social and medical programs.

Services Provided

The services provided by adult day care centers vary from facility to facility and by facility type. Here are the types of services you’ll find most often:

     Health screening
     Memory and cognition therapy
     Medical care
     Physical therapy
     Nutritious meals
     Respite care
     Volunteer and community service programs
     Therapeutic activities
     Family support groups for caregivers
     Medication management
     Door-to-door transportation

Who Offers Adult Day Care?

According to the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA), over 5,000 adult day care centers dot the U.S., an increase of 35% since 2002.

A MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs says that about 70% are freestanding facilities; 11% are connected to nursing homes; 8% are connected to assisted living facilities; 2% are connected to a hospital.

Some assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer adult day care to not only their residents, but to members of the community. About 75% of adult day care facilities are operated as non-profits while the rest are for-profit.

The majority of facilities are open Monday thru Friday with a small percentage open on weekends.

Regulation of adult day care varies from state to state with some states having no regulation in place. To find out more about a particular facility in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or your state’s Department of Aging.

When Does One Need Adult Day Care?

As stated above, these facilities have filled a crucial gap in senior care. Not every senior can afford the cost of assisted living. And not every senior needs the level of care provided by assisted living facilities. Here are some common reasons seniors and their caregivers choose adult day care.

     When a senior desires or needs socialization because of isolation
     When a senior desires or needs recreation with their peers
     When a senior desires or needs regular exercise
     If a senior is in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s
     If a senior needs help with chronic disease management and health maintenance 
     When a senior’s caregiver needs a break

Costs and Paying for Adult Day Care

Adult day care costs vary greatly from state to state and from region to region. As can be expected, rates are generally higher in the Northeast and lower in the South. According the 2012 MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, the average daily rate for adult day care was $70. The highest average state rate was Vermont at $141 a day while the lowest average rate of $39 a day was found in Alabama.

Many facilities offer drop-in rates for those seniors who need a day or two of care. Seniors are typically charged by the hour in these situations.

Many seniors who use adult day care end up paying for it out-of-pocket. Adult day care is not typically covered by Medicare and Medicaid. However, if you have the Medicare Advantage Plan, you may be covered under Part C of that plan. Also, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)—a part of Medicare/Medicaid—provides financial support for qualified seniors in a limited number of states.

The Veterans Administration also provides support for veterans under their Adult Day Health Care program.

Other ways to pay include long-term care insurance, cashing in on life insurance policies, finding support from your local church.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging and your state’s Aging Department and ask if there are state-specific programs that provide assistance.

Final Thoughts

Adult day care centers have filled an important void for thousands of seniors and their caregivers who simply can’t afford or are not ready for traditional senior care options such as nursing homes and assisted living.