Please, don’t send me to Day Care

day careIf you search in for an image to match the term ‘Day Care’ you mostly only find images for children day care services and centres, as per this image I have added today! I wrote the following for a friend and colleague, to read out at a conference who is attending soon with an audience of life style and activity co-ordinators.

“Let me begin with the word ‘day’ used in ‘day’ respite.

Many people with dementia, who are over the age of about 5 or 6, feel the use of the word ‘day’ program, ‘day’ respite, or ‘day’ activity centre, is little different to the use of the term ‘day’ care that we took our pre school children to.

It is, in itself, infantilising us before we even get there, and many with dementia would simply refuse to go to any respite program with the use of the word ‘day’ in it.

Let me finish with a few words about what happens in these well meaning ‘day programs, and how offensive some of the things that happen there,that I and many others with dementia find them to be.  Using ‘gold stars’ for winning some make believe event, or plastic ‘gold medals’ for the best piece of ‘art work’. Often, people with dementia are almost forced into these programs, to give their care partners a much needed break, but, the activities need to be age appropriate, and truly engaging and individually meaningful. By that, I mean meaningful to us, and with some inherent value to our lives and existence, not easy for you or of interest to the lifestyle coordinator.

Activities need to also have some inherent value in them, value to our lives, things that make us want to get out of bed, not just fill in the time and the boredom of being there. Real activities, like going out into our community and being supported to volunteer or joining a sporting club, a gardening club, or even a social group outside of the place of respite. Activities like singing, music and dancing, but only if we like those activities. Some of us might prefer to be in a book club. This is also, after all, part of being I our community, and part of our community being dementia friendly.

Please think about our needs, stop the use of words, terms and activities that feel to us like child care, and finally, ask yourself if what you are offering is gender and age appropriate, as well as individualised to ensure it is person centred.”

Author: Kate Swaffer © 2015

24 thoughts on “Please, don’t send me to Day Care

  1. There is a dementia day respite I took dad to up here in Brisbane and they were great. Friday’s were pub days for the blokes. The PWD were definitely treated as adults not as children. They all seem to be happy and formed wonderful friendships. It felt more like a community group than “day care” to me. I felt confident and happy to have dad there for one day a week. It was a a good socia outing.


    • I’m really glad it worked for him… I suspect, and I might be just because I am a baby boomer, I simply will not accept the title of the respite centre, despite how good it might be. I have had that feedback from a huge number of others with dementia too.


  2. From one of our #KiamaDAG members, who read this with her mother:

    “Yay Kate!!!

    Mum had a good laugh, I bet Kate would think that people should “shake off the old” too, after returning from these programs! Nothing like “Nanny Daycare”!

    It really should be all about catering for the individual (please don’t get me up on my “inclusion” soapbox :D).

    I wonder what Kate would think about the highlight of the day being – to “learn a frog fact” – I can really understand why “people with Alzheimers wander”…

    If Mum had been offered a gold star as well as the program she went to, she would have run screaming off into the sunset (and probably been labelled with “Sundowners”)



    • Thanks for sharing beyond my blog followers Lynda, and for posting the comment you received here, which as you know, I tried to do myself, but failed to post a comment on my own blog!!!! Doh…


      • ”my darling” ?? interesting….. Hi Kate, love your website and have gotten a lot of good info from it, however I am sometimes concerned about some of it. I work in a memory support unit at an aged care facility (are those words ok?) I am very proud of our centre and the word we do together, we encourage input from staff, volunteers, and residents (both with and without dementia) as well as other local support and community groups. Our residents consult with each other and make their own plan of activities they wish to do, those from the memory support unit join together with those who are not for the consultation and the activities. While we do have singing/music and book club “days’ we also have bingo, bowling, games and excercise groups (to name a few of our activities). Our residents choose how they want these programs run and have also chosen rewards/awards for winning games. These range from a choccie, a plastic medal, to stars on a board tallying a monthly team winner, they find it both fun and enjoyable to get together like this. If they didn’t the activity room would be empty and it is full each day. I find this input appropriate and our residents are well within their rights to choose the prizes they want. I would not dream of telling anyone that their choices are unacceptable or inappropriate to those in the group who have dementia, especially as those from our memory support unit are enjoying the input as well. I read a quote once that is very apt here regarding activities and whether or not they might be childish for the person, “do not look at the activity offered and judge, look at the enjoyment the person is having and judge”. You would have to agree Kate that things work very differently for every person, I think it could be detrimental to speak against things that may be helpful to some. It could also confuse a person who is desperately wanting to assist their loved one and stop them from wanting to try things that may work well. It certainly confuses me, I start wondering whether to encourage or discourage some of their chosen activities in case we are all judged.


      • I’m sorry you feel judged Joy… it is never my intention. My blogs are based on my personal experiences – both as a person with dementia, and as a past care partner and nurse, and my many and current observations in the sector as well. This place is also a great place for a conversation about it, and I really thank you for your honesty. I will try and remember to think about your words when I am writing and publishing here… thanks again.


  3. Are you some sort of mystic Kate. I may well copy this acros to my Blog after the awful experience Maureen has had today: dumped at a Day Centre. I don’t think the’ve heard the lst of this!


  4. Agreed and I continue the “Language Fight.” In an obit article that will be in the major newspaper in Chicago, I “educated” the freelance writer to make sure he didn’t use words like “suffer” or “fight valiantly” or “victim.” Instead “Lived and lived well with Dementia/Alzheimer’s” and “Hero not Victim.” He didn’t “struggle” he “lived with and compensated for.” I agree about “Day Care.” Maybe just “Senior Center” or “Senior Activities.” In relation to “what they do there” I think this is a problem in many centers as well as long term care facilities. Activities need to be tailored to the population and the level of dementia. For some painting, museum trips, writing plays, listening to opera and discussing the storyline, etc is appropriate. For some, folding towels and finger painting is good. Love you Kate, as Gregory and I used to say, “More Than Ever!”


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