Adult day services benefit mood, stress of caregivers, expert says

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Penn State's Steven Zarit, Ph.D.
Penn State's Steven Zarit, Ph.D.

Adult day services can literally be a lifesaver to family caregivers living with seniors with dementia, according to new research.

Investigators at Penn State University conducted eight consecutive daily telephone interviews with 173 family caregivers. Everyone in the study took care of an adult with dementia who was using an adult day services program. On the days when the senior went to the program, the caregiver was exposed to less stress and reported more positive experiences with his or her family member. Caregivers also were in a better mood.

While the study results will likely be of no surprise to long-term care employees, they illustrate the need for more adult day services programs. Many long-term care providers are expanding or partnering with such programs, which can act as a referral source.

There is a need for more affordable adult day services, and for families to be reached before they hit a breaking point with their stress levels, says Steven Zarit, Ph.D., distinguished professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State.

“A lot of people will delay using adult day; many hold on until they can't take it anymore,” he notes. Day care activities and socializing can give the caregiver and senior more to talk about, he adds.


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