Some nursing homes have responded to the demand by offering adult day care. A 1985 survey of 847 centers nationwide found that 22% of them were operating in nursing homes, Howe said. Churches ran 18% of the centers; 12% were at senior centers, 7% at community centers and 5% at hospitals, the survey showed.
States Set Standards
Howe said 40 states and the District of Columbia have developed standards for such operations.
Elderly people suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of cognitive impairment make up a majority of adult day-care clients, authorities say.
A 1987 survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Adult Day Care Assn. found that two-thirds of those who use day-care centers in the state fit this category, said Barbara K. Visconti, president of the organization.
In Pittsburgh, Council Care Adult Day Care designed one of its three centers just for people with Alzheimer's, an irreversible neurological disorder that afflicts 2.5 million Americans.
Ruth Kaplan, executive director of the centers, said staff members at Council Care II play games with their charges to help them remember the events of the day and talk about youthful memories.
"They are being stimulated. If they sat at home and were not stimulated, it is our feeling they would lose their skills more rapidly," Kaplan said.
Husband Keeps House
In Scranton, Chickillo washes the dishes, does the laundry and cleans the two-story, century-old house in an ethnic, working-class neighborhood while his wife is at the day care center.
"She likes it there, and I tell her she's going to the club," said Chickillo, who is 71.
Even with the help of the day care center, Chickillo, a retired quality control engineer, has had to give up bowling with the local league.
"It's a burden. My friends, they think I'm dead," Chickillo said.
In the three years, his wife's memory has faded and her disorientation has grown worse. Chickillo said he has lost more than 20 pounds and has started taking medication for high blood pressure.
He said the day-care center, nonetheless, has eased the stress of taking care of his wife of 38 years.
"This is heaven sent for me, because I'm a 24-hour nurse at home," he said.