Study Finds Adult Day Closures Linked to Participants’ Cognitive Decline

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that pandemic-related closures of adult day services left older adults and caregivers without critical support. The magnitude of the impact of adult day closures on well-being, particularly among members of racial/ethnic minority groups, has yet to be measured because nationally representative data sets associated with adult day center participation do not yet exist.

Study authors call on adult day centers to link rigorous collection of racial and ethnic data to quality measures of access to equitable “age-friendly” care as a means of better supporting diverse community-dwelling older adults beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Adult Day Services have struggled to find ways to operate amid new covid variants and growing case counts, a limited body of research has demonstrated the profound effects of Adult Day closures on older adults and their care partners.

Studies that have assessed the effects of Adult Day Service closures on older adults and their care partners have consistently shown that pandemic-related closures of ADS have:

  • Exacerbated isolation and caregiver strain,
  • Accelerated cognitive and functional declines,
  • Led to unsafe behaviors,
  • Increased the use of care in higher-cost settings (e.g., emergency rooms and skilled nursing facilities), and

Limited opportunities for productive engagement among the older adults they serve. The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected the health and well-being of older adults, particularly those who identify as members of racial/ethnic minority groups. The study summarized evidence suggesting that people who receive care in ADS and their care partners suffered disproportionately when their access to essential services and support was taken away with little or no notice in March 2020. In many cases, this access has yet to be fully restored two years later.

The study calls for improved, standardized data collection on social determinants of health to understand creative methods to leverage community-based programs to meet urgent and basic needs and improve health in the face of future pandemics or natural disasters.

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