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Adult Day Health Programs Help Seniors Maintain Health and Independence

March 5, 2010
A recent study by San Francisco’s Institute on Aging (IOA) has found that adult day health programs play a vital role in helping senior participants maintain their health and independence. Since the 1970s, adult day health care has existed as an alternative to nursing home care for seniors with chronic illness, disability or dementia. There are currently 4,600 adult day health centers operating in the United States, but little scientific research demonstrating their impact on the health of senior participants. Researchers of the study, to be published in an upcoming issue of The Gerontologist, a publication of the Gerontological Society of America, followed attendees of 16 San Francisco adult day health centers and comparable older adults who did not attend a day center over the course of a year and found that the day center participants reported significantly fewer problems with regular daily activities than those in the other group. They also described having a better quality of life, which may translate to better health, less need for health care and longer lives. Unfortunately, despite the fact that these programs are also more affordable than nursing home care and allow family caregivers to work or attend to errands (or their own needs, which are often neglected), in California, the 300 adult day health centers throughout the State are routinely targeted for cutbacks or elimination through Medi-Cal, a state version of Medicaid that underwrites long-term health care for low-income residents. Providers of adult day health services hope that IOA’s study will strengthen the case for continued funding of the programs. “We know that day programs make good fiscal sense for California,” asserts Cindy Kauffman, Vice President of Operations at IOA and a leading advocate for adult day health programs, “This study shows that day centers also make good sense for older Californians who simply need some help to continue living in their own homes despite the challenges of aging in place. We hope that the Governor and the Legislature make it their priority to see that these programs remain part of the State’s strategy for caring for our aging population.”