Adult Day Care Can Ease Caregiver Stress

Adult Day Care Can Ease Caregiver Stress

By Semko, Laura 
March 21, 2017
September 2013

Adult Day Care Can Ease Caregiver Stress

Caring for a parent or another older adult isn't easy. You may feel overwhelmed and stressed out. If you are yearning for some relief, adult day care may be the solution. Research shows it not only helps those enrolled in such programs, but their caregivers, too.

Photo of a health care professional with an older woman in a wheelchair

A respite for you

Nearly 40 percent of American adults are caregivers. These people help a relative or another person who has a physical or mental health condition-without being paid. They may run errands, assist with day-to-day activities, or pay bills. Many juggle these tasks with work and other responsibilities.

On a daily basis, caregivers can face high levels of stress. This chronic stress can lead to health problems such as depression and heart disease. Although support is available, only 12 percent of caregivers use respite care. These services tend to loved ones while providing a much-needed break for caregivers.

A type of respite care, adult day care offers health services and social activities. Depending on the program, it may include meals, physical therapy, and recreational opportunities. Research shows it improves the lives of participating older adults.

Caregivers may benefit from it, too. In one study, researchers followed 121 caregivers over a two-month period. They tracked the stress levels of participants as they cared for an older adult with dementia. Caregivers reported less stress on days when their loved ones attended adult day care.

Much-needed support

Many different adult day care and other such programs are available. Your area agency on aging can help you find programs close to you. Other helpful sources: the National Adult Day Services Association ( and the Eldercare Locator website (

When choosing the best program for you and your loved one, consider the following:

  • Decide on wants and needs. For example, does your loved one require transportation to and from the facility? How about special care? Are social activities important?

  • Check for licensing. Note: Not all states require licenses.

  • Compare costs. Find out what is included in a program's fee.

  • Talk with other families that use the facility. Their opinions can be useful.

  • Visit the center and chat with staff. Ask about staff training, including any special experience for your loved one's specific condition.

  • Test the facility. Assess how you and your loved one feel about the center after you have tried it a few times.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.



Click here for more tips on handling caregiver stress.

Online Resources

Administration on Aging - Eldercare Locator

Family Caregiver Alliance

National Family Caregivers Association

Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Constant stress can lead to caregiver burnout. Warning signs include changes in appetite or sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in caring for yourself and your loved one. To help avoid caregiver burnout:

  • Ask for help. Family and friends are often willing to assist with shopping, cleaning, or other activities.

  • Join a support group. You may learn valuable caregiving tips.

  • Make time for yourself. Do something you enjoy a few times a week.

  • Don't overextend yourself. To-do lists can help prioritize your time.

  • Stay physically active. Exercise can ease stress and improve your overall health.

  • Talk with your doctor right away if you feel depressed.

  • Consider respite care.


March 21, 2017


Adult Day Health Center Participation and Health-Related Quality of Life. E. Schmitt, et al. The Gerontologist. 2010. Vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 531-40., Effects of Adult Day Care on Daily Stress of Caregivers: A Within-Person Approach. S. Zarit, et al. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B. 2011. Vol. 66, no. 5, pp. 538-46.

Reviewed By:  

Foster, Sara, RN, MPH