July 13, 2018

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Families are the greatest resource for helping frail older adults

David BethuramSeniors have many choices when deciding where to socialize, go on recreational outings, and participate in exercise programs, but families continue to be the greatest resource for helping frail older adults live a high quality of life at home.

Family members who work, attend school or need some respite may need help with supporting a loved one. Most communities have senior centers, adult day centers, supportive and social day programs, and other services to help people stay active in their communities.

With all of the choices available, it can be confusing to know which option is best for you or your loved one. On the surface it seems they all offer social and recreational activities, meals and special clubs. What’s the difference between a senior center and adult day center?

The short answer in two words: medical need.

Senior centers offer many activities and services for people who are age 50 or older and are independent. Those who are able‑bodied and capable of making their own decisions do not need supervision, direction from a leader or medication monitoring.

Some people need more support because of medical conditions. Those who are too frail, have physical or mental disabilities, suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory loss, or other medical issues need professional assistance and specialized activity options to fit their needs.

Adult day centers offer the same sort of activities as senior centers, but are adapted to fit the needs of the participant. They are more structured and done under supervision. They also accommodate special diets, and they assist with medications, eating, walking/mobility, toileting, bathing and health monitoring (e.g., blood pressure, food or liquid intake).

Another benefit of an adult day center is providing respite to caregivers. The average participant of an adult day center lives with a spouse, adult children or other family member or friends. When a caregiver is certain their loved one is receiving professional care and having fun in the community, they feel secure going to work or getting a much-needed break.

Those who attend adult day centers aren’t independent enough to use senior centers, but do not require the 24-hour supervision offered by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. One of the main goals of an adult day center is to bridge this gap and help adults stay active in their community, receive care during the day, and stay out of institutions for as long as possible.

According to the federal Administration on Aging, the cost of long-term care provided by adult day centers is the least expensive option currently available. When compared with home care for an equal number of hours, adult day care usually costs at least 50 percent less.

Catholic Charities’ Adult Day Services is called A Caring Place. It’s located in Indianapolis and offers recreation and socialization, a health assessment and monitoring, and medication administration by a registered nurse. A balanced lunch and snack are available daily as well as limited transportation services. Our fall prevention program is managed by our licensed physical therapist. We also offer referral and assistance in obtaining other needed services for your loved ones to enable them to remain safe in their home and their community.

If you’d like to know about the services that are provided in your community for either you or loved one, Catholic Charities is here to help. Call 800-382-9836, ext. 1500, or 317-236-1500.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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