In Defense of Adult Day Care

I am the first one to avoid a discussion of politics. My opinions are definite and they are my own but I am unlikely to share them, except perhaps with those who share similar viewpoints. I am not the person who wants to engage in a political debate and if the topic comes up, and it is clear we are going to disagree, then I am likely to just say nothing. Maybe that’s conflict avoidance and maybe it’s just that I don’t want to go there or maybe I just think that we are all entitled to our own viewpoint.

So I hope that the following comments will not be seen as having any political overtones because, quite frankly, they don’t. But the comment made recently by Republican Senator Bob Corker, calling the White House an “adult day care center” is one that merits a response. Whether the White House is operating at a high or low level, effectively or ineffectively, appropriately or inappropriately, is not the issue. The issue is the negative label of “adult day care center.”

When Senator Corker uses that term, it is clear that he is equating adult day care with child day care, indicating that these adults are behaving in an infantile fashion. Maybe they are in this case but that does not describe adult day care. Adult day programs are a real thing and they are neither infantile nor juvenile nor are they, as you might construe from Senator Corker’s comment, a place that you would avoid being at all costs.

Adult day programs are an undervalued and under-recognized element of the continuum of services for older adults. They offer tremendous benefit to the elders that they serve as well as their families. I know this well because our organization has, for many years, had a medical adult day program and I can tell you that it makes the difference between allowing an older adult to continue to age in the community or to need to be admitted to a higher level of care, such as assisted living or a nursing home.

For the participants in our medical day program, our wheelchair accessible bus picks them up in the morning, with drivers trained to assist folks on and off the bus and transport them safely. They spend the day with peers, enjoying both a delicious lunch and snacks, and they have a wide variety of activities to choose from, whether it is a discussion of current events, a guest speaker, an art program, music program or more. Our participants do yoga, group exercise and cultivate their own herb and vegetable garden and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a full day and when it is over, the participants go back home on the bus, home to their families.

In addition to all of the activity and emphasis on engagement and stimulation, the day center also has a full time nurse to make sure medications are administered and health needs are met. Our social worker works with families and participants to ensure information is shared and that we all work together to support the family. Our Activity team not only continues to find new and interesting opportunities but they also help with activities of daily living, making sure that everyone has help when they need it, all done with love and dignity.

Adult day care makes it possible for participants to be home with their families for as long as possible, it keeps participants active and engaged, it makes it possible for caregivers to work or manage other responsibilities. It meets a need—a real and growing need—and does so in a way that is adult, respectful and meaningful.

I don’t fault Senator Corker for his “put down” of adult day care. Like many, he may not be aware of this “best kept secret” in the world of elder care. But for those who need it, adult day care is, literally, a life saver and for those of us who work with it, it is a key service to keep older adults at their best for as long as possible.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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