Adult Day Services

Adult Day Services Benefit the Participant and the Caregiver

Nearly 44 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care for an aging or disabled loved one every year, and the emotional and physical burden of informal caregiving can be immense.

“The health of caregivers is a huge issue,” said Danielle Heiberger, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and Adult Day Program Coordinator at Penn Highlands Adult Day Services in St. Marys. “In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labeled it a public health priority. Unpaid caregiving has been associated with a wide variety of health issues, including increased levels of depression and anxiety, higher use of psychoactive medication, compromised immune function, worsening physical health and increased risk of early death.”

September 18-24, 2022 is Adult Day Services Week. This is a great opportunity to explore options that can be beneficial to caregivers and the loved ones to whom they provide care.

Adult day services provide supervised care for older adults and adults with dementia-related disease, Parkinson’s disease, or other organic brain syndrome or physical limitations. It also provides time for caregivers to go to work, shop for groceries, attend to personal matters or simply take time to rest.

Most adult day service programs are designed for seniors with dementia or other age-related physical or cognitive limitations that preclude them from living an independent life without the assistance of others. These services provide a safe and comfortable environment that is supervised by professionals. They are structured to give seniors stimulating activities and opportunities to socialize, while ensuring their medical and personal care needs are met, such as assistance with using the restroom, eating meals and other daily activities.

“Research has repeatedly shown that socialization plays a key role in the overall health of seniors,” said Ms. Heiberger. “Socialization can help decrease anxiety and stress, which can be beneficial for cardiovascular and immune health. It can also reduce the risk for depression. In addition, studies have shown that depression can increase the risk of chronic illness and worsen disabilities.”

Adult day services are generally activity-based and provide planned programs to keep participants socially stimulated, mentally engaged and physically active. These activities may include cards and board games, puzzles, special guests, music and arts, crafts, and even gardening or baking.

The benefits from activity-based programming are numerous. Creative activities can reduce agitation, confusion and anger, especially among those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and physical activity of any kind can lower blood pressure in those with hypertension, reduce the risk of falls and more.

“Through socializing with peers and being involved with numerous group and individual activities, people gain an increased feeling of well-being and productivity,” said Ms. Heiberger. “Planned activities help participants maintain and sometimes improve their level of independence. Our goal is to make each participant feel important and to improve their quality of life, while always maintaining dignity and respect,” she added.

Adult day services can also improve the mental, emotional and physical health of caregivers by providing a respite from caregiving duties and responsibilities.

“Caring for a loved one at home can often be a stressful, overwhelming experience,” said Ms. Heiberger. “Studies have shown that caregivers suffer from higher rates of stress, exhaustion and burnout compared to other groups. That not only affects the health of the caregiver, but also the level and quality of care they are able to provide to their loved one.”

The types of services and the level of care varies between adult day service programs. Some are focused primarily on social and recreational opportunities while others offer more comprehensive medical and therapeutic services, such as physical, occupational or speech therapies. There are also programs centered on specific conditions, such as dementia or a disability.

In terms of cost, government-funded programs such as Community Health Choices Medicaid Aging Waiver, the Pennsylvania Lottery-funded OPTIONS program and veterans benefits may pay for adult day services for eligible individuals. Also, adult day services may be covered by long-term care insurance.

Penn Highlands Adult Day Center, in St. Marys, offers therapeutic activities and exercise, socialization, daily nutritious meals and snacks, medication administration, assistance with bathing, nursing services (such as lab work and vitals monitoring), podiatry care, beautician services, and so much more. To learn more, visit or to schedule a tour, call 814-781-8253.