father and son having conversation about adult day care sending parents to adult day care

How to Convince Your Parents to Attend Adult Day Care

We understand – adult day care can be a touchy subject. All too often, children want their parents to consider entering an adult day care program, but parents feel as if a program like this is a one-way ticket to a complete loss of independence and a new identity they aren’t quite ready to embrace. Fortunately, there are ways to help a parent see the value of adult day care, which is good for both the aging parent and his or her caregivers.

What is Adult Day Care?

Adult day care is a care-specific facility that’s commonly located in a community center, hospital, church, or assisted-living center. These facilities are run by nonprofit or for-profit companies and generally offer activities, assistance, and supervision for adults of all ages and need levels. While there is a common perception that adult day care is specifically for ill or disabled individuals, or those suffering from dementia, this is not true. While adult day care centers do indeed cater to these populations, they also offer services for individuals who are simply lonely or need some extra help, even if they don’t yet require round-the-clock care. Most day care settings offer health care, supervision, and fun activities like games, exercise, pet therapy, crafts, music lessons, or social hours. It estimated right now that there are more than 5,000 adult day care centers in the country and that more than 260,000 people take advantage of their services each year. In many cases, the cost of adult day care is much lower than hiring a home care aide, which makes them an attractive option for adult children who are struggling to keep up with their parent’s care.

Why Choose Adult Day Care?

While adult day cares are not a substitute for round-the-clock care in individuals who need it, they can be a fantastic way to ensure that a needy or ailing parent has the care he or she needs during hours when children are working or tending to their families. Adult day care is also important because if a child is shouldering the majority of an ailing parent’s care it can quickly become exhausting. Adult day care is a fantastic way to afford a break for strung-out caregivers who need a break.

How to Bring Up the Topic of Adult Day Care

If you believe that adult day care is a good fit for you and your family, it’s time to bring up the topic with your parent. The largest challenge in these conversations is to make adult day care seem like a fun welcoming environment rather than an intimidating one that threatens your parent’s independence. Here are some ideas for starting the conversation:

1. Change the association

While the name is certainly not meant to be harmful, the term “adult day care” is offensive to some seniors. “Day care” implies a setting that will infantilize the individual and is often off-putting to a parent who may not have yet warmed up to the ide, so it may be a good idea to swap it out for something else. Instead of using the words “day care”, refer to the service as a club or class and make sure to focus on the elements of it, such as art or music, that your parent will love. This can help re-frame the conversation from one about your parent’s care to one about their enjoyment.

2. Highlight the strengths

Many seniors are lonely, bored, and exhibiting depressive symptoms. Fortunately, adult day care can be a fantastic way to alleviate these symptoms. Most day care programs are varied and seek to offer something for everyone. To help your parent warm up to the idea, focus on the most exciting aspects of the program. Is there a music class your parent will love? Will the program offer an opportunity for your parent to make new friends? Is there a class offered in something your parent has always wanted to try? By focusing on these positives, you can help your parent see the strengths of the program.

3. Call for help

If your parent is a good candidate for adult day care but the two of you are having trouble agreeing on the topic, consider calling in a professional to help you talk to your parent. If a doctor, social worker, or counselor suggests adult day care, your parent may be willing to consider the possibility and see the good within it. It is not uncommon for parents to resist the idea of attending adult day care, only to enjoy the program immensely once they’re there. That said, don’t give up if your parent doesn’t seem immediately receptive. They may simply need to hear it from someone else.

4. Ease into it

In order for a parent to feel comfortable with adult day care, it’s important to present the idea as gradually as possible. This means that the schedule for the first few weeks of adult day care should be short, part-time, and easy. This increases the likelihood that the parent will enjoy their time there and be more receptive to going in the future. It also helps prevent the parent from feeling as if they’ve been shoved-off on someone else and are no longer loved by their children. Throwing a parent directly into full-time adult day care can be overwhelming. That’s why keeping the schedule light, easy, and fun can be an effective way to work up to full-time care. Throughout this entire process, it’s important to allow the parent to decide how often they want to attend day care. This helps them maintain their sense of autonomy and rest assured that they still call the shots in their own life.

5. Be patient

For someone who’s lived independently up until now, adult day care is an understandably frightening topic. In order to help your parent to react well to the suggestion, it’s important to ensure that you’re being patient and empathetic as you forge ahead. Many seniors are afraid of adjusting to a new schedule, new people, and new classes at their age and anticipate feeling uncomfortable in an adult day care setting. While adult day care is often something many seniors enjoy, you can’t expect your parent to jump on the bandwagon without at least a few complaints in the beginning. To help the conversation go as smoothly as possible, lay out your concerns (you don’t have adequate time to provide all-day care for your parent, they seem lonely or depressed, they might benefit from getting out and meeting new people, etc.) and be willing to have a conversation about the ins and outs of adult day care. As with all tough conversations, being willing to listen can help the person you’re speaking to feel seen, heard, and respected which, in the even of adult day care, can go a long way toward producing a willing attitude.


While adult day care isn’t the easiest topic of conversation, it can be an important form of supplementary care for aging individuals. Whether your parent needs only moderate care or a round-the-clock caregiver, adult day care is a fantastic way to disperse the responsibility of care and to offer the parent an opportunity to get to know new people and learn exciting new activities.