Adams said the programs save money for the state by keeping people out of nursing homes, which cost the state $183 a day per person.
The programs also help mitigate shortages in medical personnel because fewer workers are needed in the group settings, she said.
Adams added that families benefit from having their loved ones in a social setting during the day and back home with their relatives at night.
"People want to be in their homes. They want to be in their communities, and day programs are a great way to do that," Adams said. "Families can feel good about it."
Gov. Deval Patrick (D) says he included $113 million to fund adult day health services in his proposed $32.3 billion budget. But because adult day health and other services for older people are not specifically referenced in the budget, AARP Massachusetts is concerned that money for these programs will be cut or not increased enough to meet the need.
"These are programs that save money in the long run," Banda said. "To target them just doesn't make sense."
State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said older people and children are high priorities, but it is too early to say what would be in the budget.
"We'll do the best we can for people," he said.
Paulette Martin, 48, daughter of Thomas and Joyce Martin, said she hopes lawmakers find the money to sustain the adult day health program. With it, her parents can remain in their home, and she can still work full time.
Martin, who lives in Dorchester, said that without the adult day health program, she would have a difficult choice: work less or put her mother in a nursing home. "That would be excruciatingly hard."
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Jean McMillan Lang is a writer living in Milton, Mass.