Steven Zarit, professor at Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues asked 150 caregivers on days when their relatives went to adult day care -- and on days they stayed home -- to write down their moods and the moods of their relatives, how agitated or restless their relatives were, and how many sleep disturbances their relatives had in a diary.
The study, published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, found the caregivers generally reported greater levels of stress exposure prior to the use of an adult day care service and on days when their relatives did not attend adult day care programs.
The study found behavior problems and poor sleep were more likely to occur on days when dementia patients remained at home.
"Family members who care for dementia patients are susceptible to experiencing high levels of stress," Zarit said in a statement. "One way of alleviating that stress is through the use of an adult day care center, which allows them a predictable break from caregiving responsibilities."
In addition, dementia patients who attend adult day care centers have fewer behavior problems and sleep better at night, Zarit said.