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Day care for persons with dementia: an alternative for whom?

Day care, as a type of care in between residential care and home help, has been available for several years, and is often referred to as an adequate alternative form of care for people with dementia. The goals of Swedish day care are to create a meaningful day for participants, offer family caregivers respite, and provide care for persons with dementia. The aim of this Swedish study was to describe day care clients with dementia problems over a 12-month period, and to discuss what distinguished those who discontinued day care from those who stayed with it. Of the clients, 76 percent were diagnosed by a doctor as having dementia between level one and four out of a total of six levels, according to the Berger rating scale of severity of senility. The results showed that one third of the people with dementia discontinued within four months. Another third dropped out within 12 months. People with behavioral problems and those who needed assistance with dressing and toileting discontinued earliest. All caregivers found some benefit of day care for their relatives and for themselves, with the exception of some caregivers of those who ended within four months. Most of the clients who lived alone at the start of day care, and ended within 12 months, went to a nursing home. Two differing conclusions may be drawn from the findings: (1) that offering day care services to persons with dementia who also show signs of behavioral problems is questionable; or (2) that the planning of day care in Sweden should be adjusted to also meet the needs of persons with behavioral problems, such as depression. In its current form, day care in Sweden seems only partially to fulfil its goals.

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