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Economy drives increase in demand for adult day health programs

Adding Medicare coverage would boost numbers even more, MU expert says

September 20th, 2010

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,
Adult Day Connection participants enjoy craft activities with children from the language preschool located next door. Both programs are run by the MU School of Health Professions.

Adult Day Connection participants enjoy craft activities with children from the language preschool located next door. Both programs are run by the MU School of Health Professions.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nearly 40 million people living in the U.S., or 13 percent of the total population, are age 65 or older. More than three-quarters of those who need long-term care live at home with family rather than in nursing homes, and that number is expected to grow. The director of the University of Missouri’s adult day care center, the Adult Day Connection, says the economy is one reason for the increase. Amy Byergo says if the services were covered by Medicare, the demand for them would grow even more. The profession is being recognized through Adult Day Services Week Sept. 19-25.

According to Byergo, who also serves as secretary of the Missouri Adult Day Services Association, adult day services are covered by Medicaid and some private insurance , but the question about Medicare is the first thing  people ask when inquiring about services at the Adult Day Connection.

“The building wouldn’t be big enough if it were covered by Medicare,” Byergo said. “I think people would jump at the opportunity to take advantage of adult day services.”

Byergo says there are some services that are covered by Medicare, for example, if the center is connected to a physician or therapist who can bill for their services. “But most adult day centers don’t have the funding for that,” she said.

Sponsored by the MU School of Health Professions, the Adult Day Connection offers adults who need daily supervision, a nutritious lunch, supervised activities, exercise and social interaction. A nurse on duty every day ensures vital signs are monitored and medications are taken as prescribed. An occupational therapist assists with activities and students offer more than 6,500 annual hours of intergenerational activity through volunteer time. The center has 37 families enrolled in the program and typically serves 18 to 19 adults a day. Participants come one to five days a week and pay $71 per day for the program.

Since adult day centers typically cost less than skilled long-term care, tight personal budgets driven by the sagging economy find relief through this approach to older adult care. But, Byergo says it also is a lifestyle choice.

“Our typical clientele, people age 65 and older, simply want to stay at home as long as they can,” Byergo said. “They want to be around their family, they want to be as active as they can. But they still may need care and those people who care for them need respite or time to work. Data indicate that for the caregiver forced to give up work to care for a family member or friend, the cost in lost wages and benefits is estimated to be $109 per day. That isn’t something most people can afford to give up.”

Byergo notes that as Baby Boomers age the numbers of people needing adult day programs also will increase. “We aren’t seeing any indication that the Baby Boomers will want anything less; in fact, they probably will demand even more from their adult day programs,” she said.

The School of Health Professions has housed the Adult Day Connection, formerly known as Eldercare, since 1989. It is funded, in part, by the Heart of Missouri United Way and local government entities.