How to Encourage a Resistant Senior Participate in Adult Daycare

Adult daycare provides helpful assistance to people in the latter years of their lives as well as their caregivers. Adult daycares tend to be categorized into three classifications, depending on their primary focus:

  • Social
  • Health
  • Cognitive

These classifications are fairly self-explanatory. A social adult daycare emphasizes social interaction between attendees. Health does include a social component but is geared towards those older adults that are dealing with health conditions that require at least some level of monitoring. Finally, cognitive-focused adult daycares serve the needs of women and men who experience some level of cognitive decline and their caregivers.

Despite the very real benefits that can be derived from adult daycare centers, many seniors are reluctant (and sometimes significantly so) to cross the proverbial river and adult daycare. In this article, we present some basic tactics to consider as a means of encouraging your aging parent or other family members to at least give adult daycare a try.

Editorial Comment: Words Matter and a Name Change May Be in Order

In the United States, daycare has a universal primary meaning. It is a place where kids go when parents cannot be available to tend to their needs. Even without exploring what is offered by adult daycare, a significant percentage (if not a majority) of seniors are “turned off” by the name assigned to these centers. 

Indeed, an argument can be made that the moniker “adult daycare” infantilizes and perhaps even disrespects women and men who have lived long lives. They are not children and should not be referenced in a manner that suggests they are youngsters, as arguably is the case with the phrase adult daycare.

We are of the respectful opinion that a name change is in order. Perhaps something like Senior Social Clubs or Senior Day Out might make sense. Some – although very few – adult daycares have moved in the direction of renaming their operations or rebranding. 

You might think that this editorialization has nothing much to do with the basic theme of this article, but it does. Be alert to the very real possibility that your senior parent is not inclined to attend adult daycare because of what it is called. Your mother or father simply has not been able to get beyond the term “adult daycare.” In some cases, addressing this widely used (and perhaps unfortunate) term may initially eliminate the only real roadblock that has prevented your parent from considering attending one of these centers. 

Because adult daycare is the term of art primarily used in the industry, throughout this article, we do continue to use this phrasing, despite our misgivings about its appeal. We do now turn to some other tactics to consider using to encourage your senior mother or father to attend an adult daycare. These are:

  • Discuss the benefits and positive elements of adult daycare
  • Ease into the idea of attending adult daycare
  • Recruit support from others
  • Tour an adult daycare with your parent
  • Attend part of the first day with your parent

Benefits of Adult Daycare

There are a notable number of benefits of adult daycare. Four of the primary benefits are:

  • Socialization
  • Activities
  • Safety
  • Sense of belonging

Ease Into the Idea

Do not drop attending adult daycare on your parent like a bomb. By this, it is meant that you do not want to announce to your mother or father something to the effect of: “Tomorrow morning, you are going to adult daycare.”

There are a number of things wrong with such a pronouncement, including that unless your mother or father is no longer mentally competent, decisions like attending adult daycare are your parents’ to make. 

The proper way to broach the subject of attending adult daycare with your parent is to begin a discussion of the matter with the idea that it will continue over a period of time. You truly do want to ease into the idea of your parent attending an adult day social group.

Recruit Support

Consider involving other people in the process of discussing adult daycare with your senior mother or father. For example, if your parent trusts his or her physician (and if there is no trust in this relationship, another task likely is seeking another doctor), enlist the doctor in the discussion of adult daycare.

If your parent attends a church or other religious or spiritual group, consider involving the pastor or other leader of that church or group in a discussion of adult daycare. If other family members are with you in the idea that your parent would benefit from adult daycare, call upon them to visit with your mother or father as well. 

Finally, if your parent has a friend who is or has participated in adult daycare, enlist that individual’s help as well. In fact, your parent might even prove more willing to attend adult daycare with his or her friend.

Tour an Adult Daycare

Easing into the idea of attending adult daycare truly is a key strategy. In this regard, suggest that your parent tour an adult daycare or social center with you. A tour will not only provide an opportunity for your parent (and you) to obtain answers to questions, but it likely will dispel any misconceptions that your parent may be harboring about adult daycare. 

Attend Part of the Day With Your Parent

Yet another way in which you can encourage your senior parent to consider participating in adult daycare is to attend part of the day with your mother or father. This strategy is fairly straightforward. You and your mother or father agree that you will both attend an adult day social center. You agree that the plan is for you to stay part of the day and that your parent will stay for the entire time. 

With that said, part of the plan needs to be an offramp for your parent if he or she doesn’t want to stay the entire day and is firm in that decision. However, your parent does not voluntarily commit to attending part of the day with you. 

As long as your mother or father is cognitively capable of making decisions for him or herself, the decision to attend an adult social center is his or her own to make. You cannot force your parent to participate in activities and programming. Your parent is an adult and deserving of dignity and respect.