Senior Resources » Adult Day Care and Adult Day Health Care: What’s the Difference?

Adult Day Care and Adult Day Health Care: What’s the Difference?

Friendly young nurse talking to senior patient in hospital; Image Credit, Shutterstock

For many seniors, adult day care is the happy medium between aging in place and moving into a long-term care facility. However, like snowflakes, no two adult day care centers are alike. Every facility caters to different needs and accommodates different individuals. If you or a loved one have researched adult day care centers, you may be wondering about those differences. For example, is adult day care different from adult day health care? Keep reading to find out!


What Is Adult Day Care?

friends playing a game

Adult day care is a supervised, structured program designed to provide older adults and individuals with disabilities with social, recreational, and health-related activities in a safe and supportive environment during daytime hours. For caregivers, adult day care can also provide respite, allowing them to work, run errands, or indulge in a little self-care.

Adult Day Care Services

over 55 woman brushing her hair and smiling

Adult day care centers offer a variety of services tailored to meet the needs of participants. However, the services may vary from facility to facility. In an adult day care setting, common services may include the following:

  • Social activities: such as games, arts and crafts, and group outings. For example, Houston-based adult day care center Amazing Grace offers Bible studies and daily refreshments. Not to be outdone, OPICA, an adult day care center in Los Angeles, offers Nisei cultural groups and live music and entertainment.
  • Physical activities: such as exercise classes, walking, and gardening.
  • Cognitive stimulation: such as puzzles, memory games, and educational programs. BainBridge Adult Day Care Center in Brooklyn offers memory care support and stress reduction classes.
  • Personal care assistance: such as meal preparation, hygiene, and mobility.
  • Meals and snacks: nutritious meals and snacks are often provided, and special dietary needs can usually be accommodated.

What Else Does Adult Day Care Offer?

father and daughter

Adult day care programs also offer respite and support for family caregivers who may need assistance caring for their loved ones while they work, run errands, or take time for themselves. By utilizing adult day care services, caregivers can have peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are well cared for in a safe and stimulating environment. This can help individuals avoid caregiver burnout or recuperate if they’re already in the throes of burnout.

Additionally, some adult day care centers may offer round-trip transportation to and from the facilities. This can be especially helpful for older adults who can’t drive or those who may have mobility issues. Caregivers, too, can benefit from round-trip transportation, as their loved ones will have a way to get to and from the facility safely.

What Is Adult Day Health Care?

Adult day health care (ADHC) is a type of adult day care program that provides comprehensive health and rehabilitative services to individuals with medical or cognitive needs. While it also provides many of the same services as regular adult day care, these programs also go above and beyond to provide comprehensive medical support.

Adult Day Health Care Services

ADHC programs offer a range of medical and health-related services designed to meet the needs of participants with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or complex medical conditions. These services may include:

  • Nursing care: Skilled nurses assess participants’ health needs, monitor vital signs, administer medications, and provide treatments such as wound care or injections. For example, Active Day of the Northeast, a Philadelphia-based adult day care center, boasts an on-site nursing staff.
  • Therapy services: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy may be provided to help participants maintain or improve their functional abilities and independence. Enriched Adult Day Care in New York City offers on-site physical therapy and aquatic therapy.
  • Personal care assistance: ADHC staff may assist participants with activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Health monitoring: Regular health assessments, monitoring of chronic conditions, and coordination of care with participants’ healthcare providers are integral parts of ADHC programs.
  • Medical supervision: Trained staff members are available to respond to medical emergencies and provide immediate assistance as needed.

What Else Does Adult Day Health Care Offer?

In addition to health services, ADHC programs offer structured activities and socialization opportunities to promote mental stimulation, social engagement, and overall well-being. These activities may include cognitive exercises, arts and crafts, games, music therapy, and group discussions. Nutritious meals and snacks are typically provided as part of ADHC programs. Meals are often tailored to meet participants’ dietary needs and preferences, and special diets may be accommodated.

What Else Should I Consider When Choosing an Adult Day Care Center?

friends doing a puzzle

According to Schofield Care, when a facility designates itself as an adult day health care program, this typically indicates that they’re state-licensed. This is especially important to note because facilities that aren’t state-licensed may not be eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid. Additionally, Medicare won’t cover costs associated with just day care program designations. So, keep this in mind when researching adult day care centers! This may be critical for older adults who are on Medicare and Medicaid and planning to use those programs to cover the costs of adult day care.

Adult Day Care Vs. Adult Day Health Care: An Overview

AspectAdult Day CareAdult Day Health Care
Services ProvidedPrimarily social and recreational activities, meals, and supervision.Comprehensive health and rehabilitative services, including nursing care, therapy (physical, occupational, speech), medical monitoring, and personal care assistance.
FocusSocialization, companionship, and leisure.Medical care, therapy, and rehabilitation to address medical or cognitive needs.
ParticipantsTypically for individuals who are relatively independent and do not require intensive medical supervision.Geared towards individuals with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or complex medical conditions who require skilled nursing care and therapy.
Caregiver SupportProvides respite and support for family caregivers who need assistance caring for their loved ones during the day.Offers respite and support for family caregivers, allowing them to attend to other responsibilities knowing that their loved ones are receiving quality medical care and supervision.
Health ServicesLimited or no medical services provided.Comprehensive health services, including nursing care, medication management, therapy, and medical supervision.
CostGenerally lower cost compared to adult day health care.Can be more expensive due to the higher level of medical care and skilled services provided.
Funding OptionsTypically paid out-of-pocket, although some programs may accept Medicaid, VA benefits, or long-term care insurance.May be covered by Medicaid, VA benefits, or long-term care insurance, and some states offer subsidies or financial assistance for qualifying individuals.

Bottom Line

nurse and assisted living community resident doing heart hands

Individuals and caregivers should carefully research and consider the options available in their area to determine the best fit for their needs. Remember that day care centers are not one-size-fits-all! If you’re on Medicaid or Medicare, make sure to check and see if the facility is state-licensed. Do your research and make sure you don’t make a snap decision! Carefully weigh all the pros and cons and choose the facility that’s best for you.

Still looking for more information about adult day care? Then be sure to check out these great articles before you go!


Originally published February 12, 2024


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