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How to Convince a Parent to Attend an Adult Day Center

7 tips to get mom or dad to go for care, meals and new friends

By Lucy Lazarony and SCAN Foundation

Having a place where your parent is able to go during the day for care, rehab services or just socializing can be a godsend for caregiving families.

But you may find that your loved one is reluctant to try it out. We offer seven tips on how to encourage your mom or dad below.

What Are They?

Adult day centers may be located at a hospital, community center or church. They may be run by a nonprofit or a for-profit company. Some provide health care and supervision as well as group activities like crafts, games, exercise and pet therapy. Some specialize in caring for seniors with dementia or other illnesses.

There are more than 5,000 adult day centers across the country with more than 260,000 participants, according to the National Adult Day Services Association. At a median cost of $69 a day, according to the 2015 Genworth Cost of Care survey, they may be considerably cheaper than hiring home health aides.

Once you decide which center is best for your parent, the following ideas may make the concept of an adult day program more appealing to him or her.

1. Don’t call it day care.

Referring to the programs as “adult day care” may offend some who consider "day care"  infantilizing.

“Most of them don’t call it adult day care,” says Leah Eskenazi, director of operations for the Family Caregiver Alliance. “They’re going to meet their group. Some people call it going to their club or their class.”

At their club or class, there may be yoga, music, movies, art and crafts projects, plus snacks and meals.

2. Make it fun.

Give your parent a fun reason to go. Is there a fantastic arts program? Or another activity that your mother or father would really enjoy?

“The first day, look for a hook,” Eskenazi recommends. “Is there a trip or an activity they would like? Make sure you plan for the first day so they’re engaged right from the start.”

3. Encourage your parent to volunteer.

If mom or dad seems lukewarm on going to a day center, you might say: 'They could use your help as a volunteer,” Eskenazi says. Of course, check with the center first.

4. Ask a professional to step in.

If you and your parent just aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on attending a day center, you may wish to reach out to a third party for help. Your mother or father may go willingly if a doctor or a social worker offers the suggestion.

At Alzheimer’s Community Care, which runs 10 dementia-specific adult day centers in South Florida, a family nurse consultant will often encourage a parent to attend a day center when an adult child is having no luck. Once through the door, he or she is often happy to be there.

“We hear these stories all the time,” says Kathleen Herd, vice president of development for the organization.

In one case, the family nurse consultant drove the mother right to the day center. “Her face lit up. Here was her peer group and she didn’t even know she was missing it,” says Mary Barnes, executive director of Alzheimer’s Community Care.

5. Start with a short schedule.

Don’t ask a parent to stay too long at a day center on the first day.


“Make it short. Make it easy. Don’t make someone stay the whole day,” Eskenazi says.

Don’t overwhelm a parent by booking too many days early on. Keep the schedule as light as possible. “Start with maybe one or two days per week. I would recommend someone starting with a shorter schedule and then working up to more days and more hours over time,” Eskenazi says.

Be supportive. If a day center is a positive experience for a parent, be upbeat and positive and encourage him or her to attend. “Let them decide if they want more days,” Eskenazi says.

6. Expect a few complaints.

It may take a parent a little bit of time to adjust to attending a day center. And you may hear some kvetching during that transition. For example, a parent might complain, “There are too many old people here!”

“You might say, ‘They could use a little young blood there,‘” Eskenazi suggests.

Be patient during the adjustment period.

“It often takes several visits for a new person to feel comfortable in a new setting and new routine,” Barnes says. “The ideal situation [in their eyes] is for them to be with you, and you can’t do it 24/7. Ask the staff for help in making the transition from home to the day center.”

A parent with a neurocognitive disorder may be insecure about new experiences. But if you are a strong proponent for the day center, a parent may feel more comfortable attending.

7. Use good judgment.

If a parent just needs a little encouragement to attend a day center, keep encouraging. But if a day center just isn’t working out for your parent, take a step back for a while.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, the person is not in the right place. You can’t pressure somebody,” Eskenazi suggests. “Step back and wait a month or two and try again."



Lucy Lazarony is a freelance journalist living in South Florida who writes about personal finances, the arts and nonprofits. Her writing Is featured on Next Avenue,,, and the National Endowment for Financial Education. She previously worked as a staff writer at Read More
By SCAN Foundation
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