We are lucky to live in a time where people with disabilities have options for how they're supported. Some people choose to receive support in their homes. This option is becoming more popular. More people are realizing that a nursing home or group home isn’t the only place to receive quality care. If you or a loved one has a disability and needs more support, adult care might be the right option for you.
How Does Adult Care Differ from Senior Care?
Adult care isn’t only an option for seniors. People of all ages with physical and cognitive disabilities can receive adult care. Senior care is specific to the needs of aging adults like frailty and dementia. Senior care recognizes that people change over time.
Adult care for non-seniors is broader. People who are born with disabilities or acquire them at a young age have a whole lifetime ahead of them where they will need care. They have support needs, but they are often interested in working and learning new skills. Their priorities and long-term goals are different from those of seniors. Adult care providers who work with younger adults help their clients live independently. They can help their clients build skills and reach milestones such as:
- Attending college or vocational programs
- Moving out of their parents’ house
- Starting a job
- Managing a household
- Pursuing hobbies
In recent decades, we’ve had a major cultural shift in how we see people with disabilities. We know that people with disabilities can live and work in their communities. Adult care is a vital part of empowering people with disabilities to achieve their goals.
Who Benefits from Adult Care?
Many groups of people experience the benefits of adult care. People with the following disabilities and identities may benefit:
- Down syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Intellectual disability
- Developmental disability
- Genetic disorder
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Seizure disorder
Since the people who receive adult care are so diverse, no two caregivers will have the same job! This means that people who receive adult care can have a personalized experience. There are two main groups of people who might think about starting adult care.
Parents are the primary people responsible for caring for children with disabilities. When children with disabilities grow up, the situation becomes more complicated. Parents of teens with disabilities must learn to support their adult children. For most parents, it doesn’t feel right to continue as they had when their children were kids. Many parents want their child to remain living at home but have a smaller role in providing day-to-day support.
Teens with disabilities crave independence, like their peers. They may want less help and more time away from their parents. Some teens want to do more but have difficulty adjusting to their parents doing less. A young adult may struggle to leave behind old habits if they continue living with their parents. Adult care is a great option for families facing this transition.
Benefits for parents:
- Allows them to step back from providing day-to-day support
- Enables parents to work outside the home
- Enables parents to keep their children living at home
- Promotes a more typical relationship between parent and adult child
- Allows parents to see their children gain independence
Benefits for young adults:
- Empowers them to make decisions
- Places age-appropriate responsibility on the young adult
- Allows the young adult to see their parents as trusted mentors instead of care providers
- Prepares young adults for living apart from their parents
- Empowers them to develop new routines separate from their parents
- Provides desired peer relationships because caregivers are often closer in age to young adults
Adults who acquire disabilities later in life must learn to adjust to their new reality. Adults with acquired disabilities may be used to working, living independently, and having active lives. A sudden, dramatic change to their lives can be an upsetting and difficult transition. Someone who acquires a disability usually wants to maintain as much of their former life as possible.
Adult care empowers them to enjoy things that were meaningful to them pre-disability. Adult care providers support independent living. Adults with acquired disabilities may be able to remain in their own homes instead of a facility. They can keep the routines they enjoyed pre-disability by incorporating adult care into their daily lives. Their providers will become familiar with their preferences, habits, and values. Clients will learn to ask for the support they need to live their lives.
Adult Day Care vs. Adult Care at Home
Adult care at home is different from adult day care. Adult day care has a similar structure to school or work. If someone attends adult day care, they will go to a daycare site on certain days of the week, usually during business hours. Adult day care is also referred to as an adult day program.
Some adult day programs include community outings and scheduled activities. Adult day programs can be quite social, especially as clients get to know each other. One downside is that adult day programs can feel very separate from the community. Clients in adult day programs spend a lot of time with only other people with disabilities.
Adult care at home can take place at home and in the community. Adult care can include support with errands and community outings. For adults who are active in their communities, adult care might be more attractive. Adult care enables people to spend time with the general public and live an integrated life by enabling people to do activities like:
- Attend church
- Visit friends
- Attend family events
- Go to concerts
- Go to the movies
Disability advocates value “integrated settings.” An example of this is school. Children in special education spend some of their time in special education classrooms where they are only with other students with disabilities. They spend the rest of their time in integrated classrooms with peers not in special ed.
This integration has benefits for all students, not only students with disabilities. By integrating classrooms, students become comfortable with peers of all abilities. Schools become better able to meet the needs of all students. Adult care allows us to turn our communities into integrated settings. This helps us all become comfortable interacting with people of all abilities.
Some people enjoy both adult day care and adult care in their home. For example, someone may attend adult day care during the week from 8am to 3pm. They may also have adult care in their home in the evenings and on the weekends.
What Tasks can a Caregiver Perform?
Caregivers who provide adult care perform a wide variety of tasks. These include support with personal care tasks, such as:
- Support with walking and transferring from bed to wheelchair
- Bathing, dressing, and grooming support
- Medication reminders
- Toileting and incontinence care
- Collaborating with family
- Safety and fall prevention
Caregivers can also provide support with typical daily activities, such as:
- Light housekeeping
- Meal preparation and nutrition
- Laundry and change of bed linens
- Grocery shopping and errands
- Transportation to social and recreational activities
- Support with exercise and outdoor activities
- Companionship and community engagement
- Travel support
Adult care providers should support their client’s lifestyle. Some clients may want to prepare their own food, so their caregiver may assist with cooking. Other caregivers may prepare all meals from start to finish. A caregiver’s role depends on their client’s abilities and interests.
When someone starts adult care, they will explain their needs to their new provider. Care providers should be client-directed. This means that they provide care in the way that their client wants. The client should choose what they eat, what grocery store they go to, and which movies to see. This level of choice isn’t always possible in other settings. For example, in a nursing home or adult day program, there may be a set menu for meals.
24 Hour Adult Care
Some adults with significant disabilities may need 24 hour home care. Someone can receive support in-home even if they need support throughout the night. Overnight support may include:
- Rotation every few hours to prevent bedsores
- Monitoring for medical emergencies
- Support toileting
- Monitoring to prevent falls or wandering
24 hour care enables many people to remain in their homes rather than moving to a facility.
Clients and adult care providers enjoy the flexibility of in-home care. Adults of all ages and abilities want the freedom to make their own decisions. Adult care allows this independence, so clients are more satisfied. Care providers develop one-on-one relationships with clients. This makes it rewarding when they see their clients achieve long-term goals. Adult care providers also know that the work they do allows their clients to live the lives they want.