• “See how engaged people are,” said Donna Schempp, a program director at the Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco. “Are they sitting around in wheelchairs and being ignored or are people trying to engage them in different kinds of activities?”
The workers should seem interested in their elderly charges and treat them kindly, said Lundgren, a board member of Washington Elder Care, a group working to create a local day health program geared to dementia patients.
“It’s always the people and their attitude and their commitment to their work,” he said.
• Ask to see a schedule of activities. If possible, come back for an unscheduled visit during an activity your loved one might enjoy, and see how it’s run. Mealtime also is a good time to visit and see how workers treat clients, said Notarstefano.
• Look for a center that satisfies the caregiver’s needs as well as the loved one. Most centers serve lunch, but many provide other services, including transportation or medical screenings. Some may offer bathing services and transportation to doctor’s appointments.
• Find out whether the center takes field trips, uses volunteers or invites in children for special programs, said Ginzler.
“Adult day centers should encourage and promote opportunities to engage in the world around them,” she said. “That should include bringing the world in and going out into the world.”
• Find out whether the staff will help participants use the restroom, and how they handle episodes of incontinence, suggested Nora Gibson, executive director of ElderHealth Northwest, in Seattle.
“Many older adults need assistance or reminders to go to the bathroom,” she said. “You don’t want anyone to have the humiliation of going home in wet pants or a wet dress.”
• Find out what type of training the center requires for employees and whether it provides ongoing training. Centers should continue to train staff for the duration of their employment, Ginzler said.
• Many centers will help families introduce the idea of day care to their loved ones. Directors often suggest stressing the opportunities for socialization and organized activities. Many will invite the potential participant in for a meal or activity. Others encourage seniors to try out the facility for a week or two.
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