Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Day Care for Older People


Debra Bakerjian

, PhD, APRN, University of California Davis

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020

Day care for older people may involve

  • Treating a problem

  • Maintaining the person's condition

  • Providing social activities or mental health care (such as group therapy)

People can go to day care facilities for several hours a day for several days a week. These facilities may also provide a place where family members who care for an older person full-time can take the older person and get a break from caregiving (a service called respite care). By doing so, they may help delay or avoid placement in a nursing home.

In the United States, there are only about 4,800 adult day care programs compared with more than 16,000 nursing homes. Most day care programs are small, serving about 20 people. However, in total, these day care programs serve more than 280,000 older adults on any given day.

Day hospitals are a type of day care facility. They provide complex tests and treatments, rehabilitation services, and intensive skilled care. They are designed for people who are recovering from a recent problem such as a stroke, an amputation, or a fracture. The primary care practitioner or a hospital may send a person to a day hospital. These facilities usually provide care for a limited time (6 weeks to 6 months) and are expensive because the ratio of staff members to patients is high.

Maintenance day care programs provide limited skilled care (such as screening for and monitoring of chronic disorders) and physical exercise. The goals are to prevent deterioration of the person's mental and physical condition, to maintain or improve the person's ability to function for as long as possible, and to prevent chronic disorders from worsening. Also, these programs include activities to improve the person's self-image, provide stimulation, and prevent loneliness, isolation, and withdrawal. Maintenance programs can provide long-term care and are less expensive than day hospital programs.

Social day care programs provide counseling, group therapy, activities to maintain or improve mental function, strategies to compensate for losses, and social and recreational activities. They may resemble a senior center or a mental health care center, providing care for older people with dementia or psychiatric disorders.

Financial issues

Medicare does not cover day care services. Funds usually come from the Older Americans Act (which funds services to help keep older people functional and independent), Medicaid Medicaid Current details regarding funding and availability of medical care in the United States remain unsettled. The reader is referred to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and The Henry... read more waiver programs, long-term care insurance, and/or private funds.

Others also read
Test your knowledge
Care Providers - Family and Friends
Some older people require caregivers to provide help and care with activities of daily living. Of the several different types of people who can serve as a caregiver, which of the following is the most common?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID