How to know when someone is ready for adult day services

Courtesy of Avenidas Rose Kleiner
Ben and Annie share a laugh during a class.

By Susan Lam and Emily Farber Special to the Town Crier

Mary and Brad had been married 52 years. At 85 years old, Brad was becoming increasingly forgetful, had fallen several times at home and sustained minor injuries, and was no longer safe being left home alone. Brad had become isolated and spent most of his time watching television and dozing in a chair.

Mary wanted her husband to continue enjoying life. She knew he would benefit from more socialization, interesting activities and daily exercise. Mary also found her own health and quality of life declining. She was desperately in need of respite.

However, when Mary suggested attending an adult day health program, she met with resistance.

Families often share that their loved ones say, “I won’t go,” “I’m happy staying home,” “I don’t want to be around a bunch of old people” or “I won’t know anybody there.”

It can be difficult to know when your loved one is ready to participate in an adult day program. You may have questions and concerns about the program and how it will benefit you and your loved one.

How do I know when it’s time?

It’s time to attend an adult day program:

• If your loved one is becoming less independent and has difficulty planning his or her own daily activities.

• If your loved one is no longer safe to be left alone, or if he or she is becoming progressively more isolated.

• If your loved would benefit from additional social engagement, structured and therapeutic activities and daily exercise.

• If your loved one’s behavior is interfering with your own health and causing you stress, anxiety or depression, or if you could benefit by having a respite from ongoing caregiving responsibilities.

Your loved one may be reluctant initially to attend, and there may be anxiety and guilt on behalf of the family or caregivers.

Getting started

Following are some tips to get started with an adult day program.

• Convince yourself first. Take a tour of the adult day programs in the area that are appropriate and convenient. Look for activities that you know your loved one would enjoy and discuss any obstacles you anticipate.

• Don’t call it “day care.” This term can offend some people and it might be construed as infantilizing. You can call it a “club,” a “class” or a “group” at the community center.

• Make it fun. Visit an adult day program on a day when you know there is a specific activity going on that your loved one will enjoy. This will help him or her feel comfortable and engaged right from the start.

• Take one step at a time. The objective of the first day is for the person to have a positive experience and agree to go again.

• Provide encouragement and reinforce the positive. Let your loved one know that he or she needs to give it a try, or ask him or her to “do it for me.” Be firm and supportive.

• Expect some complaints and give it time. It often takes several days or weeks for a new person to adjust to an adult day program. Be patient. You can address complaints by saying, “The center could use your help,” “They are expecting you this morning” or “This is a great place to meet new people.”

Sometimes, the place or the timing may not be quite right to get started. This is OK. Take a break and try again in a few months or a few weeks. Many times, taking a break and coming back later works.

Susan Lam is clinical outreach specialist and Emily Farber is director of social services at the Avenidas Rose Kleiner Center, 270 Escuela Ave., Mountain View. The center has provided adult day services and adult day health services for more than 40 years. For more information, call 289-5481 or visit

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