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Memory Care in California

With approximately 40 million people, California is the most populous state in the nation. Of its residents, about 15% are aged 65 and over. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 690,000 of the state’s seniors are living with Alzheimer’s, a fatal disease that’s the most common type of dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the toll this disease takes on public health and quality of life, reporting that about one in 10 deaths in the state were linked to Alzheimer’s in 2020. This is consistent with rates in 2016.

To meet the needs of Californians with dementia, the state has numerous residential dementia care facilities. These communities are staffed with caregivers and licensed health care professionals who’ve undergone dementia-informed training to ensure consistently high-quality care for residents. The facilities use evidence-based social, recreational and dining programs to enhance residents’ quality of life and promote engagement.

Through this guide for memory care in California, readers can learn about dementia care costs throughout the state and find statewide resources that can help families and seniors find solutions for their needs.

The Cost of Memory Care in California

When trying to decide how to pay for memory care, one of the first questions that comes up is "How much does it cost?" With the impact of inflation, it's more important than ever to have up-to-date information when making a financial plan for senior living. To help shed light on real senior living prices, has compiled proprietary cost data from its network of over 75,000 senior living providers to offer insight into the average cost of memory care in California and its 140 cities.

The Cost of Memory Care in California's Top Cities

While the average cost of memory care in California is $5,866 per month, costs vary greatly between cities. The capital city of Sacramento and Los Angeles both register rates that exceed the state average, with Sacramento at $6,014 and Los Angeles at $6,586, respectively. San Diego is slightly more expensive at $6,951. San Francisco is one of California's most expensive cities for memory care, with average rates of $9,364.





San Francisco


Los Angeles


San Diego


Inflation's Impact on the Cost of Memory Care in California

Rising inflation has caused memory care costs to climb. From 2022 to 2023, average rates rose by 3.5% ($5,668 to $5,866). The state has felt less of an impact than the nation as a whole, which has seen a 10.4% rise in average costs. Similar to California, nearby Nevada (4.4%) and New Mexico (just over 5%) have seen a more moderate increase in the cost of dementia care than cities like Arizona, where rates have risen roughly 15%, and Oregon, where costs have jumped by more than 30%.

Location2022 Cost (Historical)2023 Cost (Current)2024 Cost (Estimated)
U.S. Average$4,863$5,369$5,792
Nevada$4,284$4,474 $4,712
New Mexico$4,943$5,214$5,553

The Costs of Other Types of Senior Living

In addition to location, several other factors can influence the cost of senior care, including the type of senior living a senior chooses. Independent living is the most affordable option at $3,556, while assisted living is nearly $1,400 more expensive at $4,946. Memory care rates are higher at $5,866. These different living options all include varying levels of care, services, amenities and programs, which considerably influence whether their monthly rates are higher or lower.

Assisted Living


Memory Care


Independent Living


Does Medicaid Cover Memory Care in California?

Note: For the purposes of this guide, when we say “Memory Care” we are referring to memory care provided in a “social setting,” such as an Assisted Living Facility. This is the most common way to receive Memory Care, and is the best fit for all but the frailest seniors. Sometimes the actual service of memory care can be provided in a Nursing Home (“medical setting”), and so the financial assistance options will be very different. To learn more about the financial assistance options available for memory care provided in a nursing home, read our guide to Nursing Home Care in California.

Medicaid in California covers Memory Care but only via the Assisted Living Waiver (ALW) program. Enrollment in Medi-Cal itself (California Medicaid) doesn’t provide coverage for memory care. The waiver provides coverage in 16 counties throughout California, which are listed on the ALW website linked above, although residents from anywhere in the state may receive coverage if willing to move to a facility in an eligible county.

What Memory Care Services Are Covered by Medicaid in California?

As noted above, Medi-Cal alone doesn’t cover memory care, but the Assisted Living Waiver program does cover many of the services typically provided in community-based memory care settings, such as specialized units within assisted living facilities. ALW participants receive coverage for some services, including:

  • help from caregivers with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • short-term skilled nursing
  • transportation
  • recreation
  • socialization
  • housekeeping
  • laundry
  • medication management

Neither Medi-Cal nor the ALW program cover room and board costs, which remain the responsibility of the resident.

Memory Care Waiver Programs in California

Assisted Living Waiver

The ALW program is intended to help seniors and people with disabilities who have medical needs that make them eligible for nursing home placement but who would prefer to live in an alternative, community-based setting such as assisted living or memory care facility. This level of care determination is made by registered nurses from approved Care Coordination Agencies throughout California. ALW participants must also have full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility.

Applications for the Assisted Living Waiver program can be made via one of the approved Care Coordination Agencies as well as online, in person or by mail via the California DHCS. People who are already in assisted living or memory care can ask facility staff for help applying for the ALW.

How to Know if You’re Eligible for Medicaid in California

California Medicaid (Medi-Cal) is a health insurance program that’s available to low-income residents, people aged 65 and over and those with disabilities as well as other vulnerable groups. It’s a joint federal-state program with eligibility requirements in California that are similar to those in other states. 

The gross household income of the applicant (or applicants) cannot exceed 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. However, recipients of other benefits automatically qualify, such as CalFresh, CalWorks, SSI/SSP and Refugee Assistance. When calculating assets, California looks back over the applicant’s previous 30 months of financial activity to determine if assets were sold or gifted in anticipation of a Medi-Cal application. The state intends to eliminate its asset requirement in 2024.

Household SizeNumber of ApplicantsIncome Limits Per Year*Asset Limits: Applicant(s)***Asset Limits: Non-Applicants
One Person1$20,364$130,000
Two Person1$20,364**$130,000$148,620
Two Person2$27,468$195,000

*Income limits apply to all Medi-Cal programs except for SSI. For SSI, individual income cannot exceed $13,604.76 and income for couples cannot exceed $23,133.44.

**Income limit is for applicant only.

***Asset limits apply to all Medi-Cal programs except SSI. For SSI, the limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. 

As well as fulfilling Medi-Cal’s income and asset limits, seniors must also satisfy some other eligibility requirements. They must be:

  • Aged 65 or older
  • A U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • A California resident
  • In need of nursing home levels of care

How to Apply for Medicaid in California

Applications for Medi-Cal can be made online via the Covered California website and in person at the Social Services office in each county across California. Postal applications are available online in English and various other languages, which can then be printed and mailed to Covered California or the appropriate local county office. Seniors and others who need assistance determining their eligibility and with the application process in general can get help via the resources listed below.

What Information You Will Need

The information and documents required for a Medi-Cal application are listed online at Covered California. These requirements include

  • Social Security number
  • valid identification
  • citizenship/immigration status
  • proof of income
  • proof of lack of minimum essential coverage

How to Get Help Applying for Medicaid

Californians who need assistance in the eligibility and application process for Medi-Cal have help available. The table below provides details and contact information for free services and assistance programs at the county level.

ProgramContactServices provided
Covered California – Licensed Insurance Agents and Certified EnrollersCall (800) 300-1506 for assistance or visit the website for live chat and in-person optionsCovered California is the official source for information and assistance with Medi-Cal and related programs. Californians can get free help online, in-person and over the phone from licensed insurance agents and certified enrollers.
California Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP)Call (800) 434-0222 to locate the nearest office or visit the website to find local servicesCalifornia's free HICAP service is part of the nationwide State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which helps people get answers to their Medicare and Medi-Cal questions.

Does Medicare Cover Memory Care in California?

The short answer is that no, Medicare does not cover the cost of memory care in California. As was mentioned above, this doesn’t apply to Memory Care received in a Nursing Home. Since it is the most common to receive memory care in a “social setting” (such as an assisted living facility), Medicare won’t be a viable financial assistance option for most seniors who need Memory Care. However, Medicare will still cover things like approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc., just like it would if you lived at home.

For more information about when Medicare can be used to pay for Memory Care in a nursing home, and for Medicare-related resources, see our guide to Nursing Homes in California.

Other Financial Assistance Options for Memory Care in California

Seniors who are not eligible (due to location, financial situation, or other factors) for other types of financial assistance, do still have some options. See the table below for an overview of some of the most common ways to make Memory Care affordable.

NameHow To ApplyHow It Works
Aid and AttendanceLearn more and apply online at who receive a VA pension may be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans can receive in addition to their standard pension amount. The benefit is intended for veterans in need of long-term care services and may be used towards paying for memory care.
Reverse MortgagesLearn more about your options and how to apply at ftc.govIf you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for memory care. Reverse mortgages are loans taken out against the value of a home, essentially converting some of the home's equity into cash. Reverse mortgage loans need to be repaid with interest, typically beginning within 12 months of receiving the loan.
Long-Term Care (LTC) InsuranceLearn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at who already have long-term care insurance may be able to use it to pay for memory care. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Older adults who are already in need of memory care are typically not eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in California

There are many resources in California that assist seniors in their retirement. has compiled information on local organizations, programs and agencies and categorized them into care types for easy reference.

Area Agency on Aging

Retirees can find support and advice on various senior-related issues from their local Area Agency on Aging. The agency provides advice on topics such as financial assistance programs, in-home care and long-term care planning. It also connects seniors and caregivers with community-based resources.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Area Agencies on Aging916-374-7739California's network of Area Agencies on Aging work under the umbrella of the California Department of Aging. These agencies promote healthy living for older residents through a variety of federal and state-funded programs. Some of these programs include supportive services, senior nutrition programs, care management programs, caregiving services and Medicare and insurance counseling. Low-income seniors can become productive community members through volunteer programs, such as the Senior Companion Program and the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

Cash Assistance Programs

Cash assistance programs in California provide financial support to help low-income retirees remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Seniors and caregivers can apply for tax rebates and reductions, discounts on vital services and help covering the cost of heating and cooling their home.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California General AssistanceThe California General Assistance program offers help to low-income adults who don't have sufficient income through other sources. Many seniors on fixed incomes qualify for aid through this program. Seniors apply for this cash assistance program through their county Department of Social Services office. Because this program is county-based, the amount of funding varies from county to county.
California Lifeline ProgramThe California LifeLine Program offers a discount on landline or mobile telephone service, ensuring that participants can stay in contact with loved ones.

Food Assistance Programs

Local organizations help ensure elderly citizens have a balanced diet and receive essential vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Through nutrition programs, congregate meals, home-delivered meals and food pantries, these programs help California seniors afford the nutritious food they need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California CalFresh800-777-7575California CalFresh offers food assistance to low-income residents of the state and serves as the state's SNAP program. Seniors and other residents who meet federal income eligibility rules can apply online for assistance paying for healthy food to eat. To apply, seniors need a copy of their ID and income verification. Seniors can use their benefits at most food stores and farmers' markets anywhere in the state.
California Meals on WheelsMeals on Wheels California delivers healthy meals to homebound seniors who can't get to the grocery store or cook independently. The program serves the entire state through local, county-based organizations. In addition to the meal delivery, Meals on Wheels offers a friendly visit from dedicated volunteers to protect seniors from loneliness.

Free Used Medical Equipment

Due to the high cost of purchasing new medical equipment, several organizations in California collect lightly used medical devices such as wheelchairs, ramps and walkers and distribute them to local seniors and residents in need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Ability ToolsThis project is funded and managed by the California Department of Rehabilitation and Foundation for Independent Living. It helps people with disabilities live happier, healthier and more independent lives by providing access to information and demonstrations of assistive technology as well as offering an online marketplace to buy/sell/borrow or receive free equipment. Financial loans may also be available for eligible residents.
California Dignity At Home Fall Prevention ProgramAdults aged 60+ or those with a disability who have fallen, are at risk of falling or at risk of being institutionalized could qualify for the California Dignity at Home Fall Prevention Program. Eligible seniors must also have a household income of less than 80% of the area's median income. In addition to paying for home modifications and medical equipment to help prevent injury, the program provides information and education on fall prevention.

Home Repair and Modifications

Seniors and those with disabilities can access a variety of local resources to help them pay for home repairs and modifications. Programs in California have different eligibility criteria and often assist retirees by providing grants or loans.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Low-Income Weatherization ProgramCalifornia's Low-Income Weatherization Program provides energy efficiency upgrades at no cost to those who qualify, letting households lower their utility bills to free up limited disposable income for other necessary expenses. This program covers expenses such as installing energy efficient air conditioning and improving insulation. To qualify, seniors must meet income guidelines.
California Section 504 Home Repair ProgramThe Section 504 Home Repair Program makes up to $10,000 in grant funds available to elderly residents living in rural areas. These funds can be used to eliminate health and safety hazards, allowing older adults to remain in their homes. To find out if your home is eligible, visit the United States Department of Agriculture Eligibility Site.

Many organizations offer free or low-cost legal services to California seniors. Older adults can access advice on issues such as estate planning, living wills and power of attorney. Some firms also act as long-term care ombudsmen, advocating for the rights of seniors in senior living communities.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Helping Elders Live Productively (H.E.L.P.)This nonprofit organization aims to empower older adults and their families by offering information, counseling and advice on elder law, consumer protection, elder care and finances. It offers classes and events and also advises seniors on a one-to-one basis, providing resources and referrals.
California Long-Term Care OmbudsmanThe statewide Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program supports older adults in assisted living by helping them understand their rights, obtain the services in their care plans and resolve issues related to substandard care. The ombudsman can mediate family disagreements regarding their loved ones' care and represent seniors' interests regarding problems with insufficient or excessive services, billing mistakes and unfair intake or discharge procedures. The ombudsman can also investigate concerns about abuse, neglect or exploitation.
The State Bar of CaliforniaThe State Bar of California funds nonprofit legal agencies across the state and maintains a comprehensive database of local offices that provide free civil legal services to those aged 60 and over. Through these offices, older adults can get one-on-one assistance with determining whether they're eligible for public benefits including Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance and Medi-Cal. The State Bar also publishes legal guides with topics such as legal resources for veterans, how seniors can avoid legal fraud and what to know before hiring an attorney.

Senior Centers

Senior centers in California bring together residents through recreational activities and events. Many also offer advice and support on senior issues, run wellness and nutrition programs, and connect older adults with other resources in the local area.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Alzheimer's Association California Chapter866-675-6623The Alzheimer's Association is a large, nationwide group of experts and volunteers providing advocacy and assistance at the local level in various parts of California. The available resources are particularly useful for family members and people who have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's and are unsure of how to plan for their future care needs. Seminars, workshops and support groups are available, along with important links, news and updates on clinical trials.
California Assisted Living Association (CALA)800-952-5661CALA calls itself the voice of assisted living, and it provides advocacy, information and education to assisted living residents and providers. Consumer data includes details about residential facilities for the elderly (RCFEs), including a facility search, reviews from residents and a shopping guide for senior services and housing. Although CALA is an industry-oriented organization, it's a useful free resource to help seniors find out about pending legislation that affects seniors and laws related to RCFEs. The association also provides continuing education opportunities for senior living staff members and the opportunity to network and develop best practices for caring for the elderly.
California RegistryCalifornia Registry is a free public service licensed by the State of California Department of Health that provides assisted living resources to area seniors. Seniors can find links to information about assisted living waivers, Medicare, SSI benefits and veteran's pensions on the website, along with an explanation about different types of care.

Senior Engagement

Senior engagement resources and programs in California help older adults remain active and ensure they contribute to the community. Resources include wellness programs, volunteer opportunities, support groups and organizations that help residents connect with the community to live fulfilling lives.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Cyber Seniors800-510-2020Founded in 2015, Cyber-Seniors: Connecting Generations Inc. is a nonprofit organization that allows young people to volunteer their time providing free technology assistance to avid learners aged 60 or older. Daily webinars are accessible, such as Online Banking Safety, but seniors who miss them can watch available ones from the archives. Ample cybersecurity information is handy for learning how to avoid getting scammed. Seniors needing tech assistance can book a one-on-one tech call to speak with a qualified volunteer.
California Friendly Phoning Program866-442-2529The California Friendly Phoning Program is part of the homebound adults support program offered by H.E.L.P. (Helping Elders Live Productively). The goal of this program is to help seniors live independently with dignity by staying connected to the community. Volunteers make weekly phone calls to seniors' homes to check in, engage in conversation and provide emotional support, which can help minimize feelings of loneliness and isolation. To sign up, seniors can call H.E.L.P.'s main office at (310) 533-1996.
California Senior Employment TrainingLow-income seniors aged 55 and over can brush up on their skills, learn new ones and access a variety of services designed to get them ready for the job market. They can receive on-the-job training while working at public agencies and local nonprofit organizations as well as get help crafting resumes and developing customized employment plans.

Social Security Offices

Social Security offices in California help seniors and disabled people access the benefits they're entitled to. Older adults can contact their local office for information about receiving retirement benefits, disability allowance and Supplemental Security Income.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Social SecuritySocial Security is a source of income available to retirees and people who can no longer work because of a disability. The money for Social Security comes from a payroll tax levied on employers, employees and self-employed individuals. When you retire, you'll receive monthly payments based on how much you earned when you were working.

Tax Assistance

Seniors can apply for tax assistance from several California resources. Elderly residents and those with disabilities could be eligible for tax exemptions on medical expenses, reductions on property tax and other tax assistance programs.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Property Tax Postponement (PTP) ProgramThe Property Tax Postponement Program allows an eligible homeowner to defer the current-year property taxes on their primary residence.

Utility & Energy Bill Assistance

Low-income seniors who are struggling to meet the costs of maintaining their homes can find support from organizations that offer assistance with utility and energy bills. California retirees could also qualify for emergency funding programs if they're in danger of losing utility services due to unpaid invoices.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps eligible households balance their utility bills, while the LIHEAP Energy Crisis Prevention Program provides financial assistance to low-income households facing energy-related crises. For example, the ECPP may offer assistance to a homeowner who's in danger of having their power shut off.

Veteran's Services

California retirees who have served in the U.S. military can find support from local veteran services. These offices and organizations help vets access the benefits they're eligible for and provide advice and information on a variety of issues.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
California Department of Veterans AffairsThe California Department of Veterans Affairs serves the state's 1.6 million veterans by helping them access state health care benefits and the VA Aid and Attendance and veterans' and survivors' pension programs. It provides advocacy and assistance via County Veteran Service Offices throughout the state. It can also help veterans determine whether they qualify for placement in one of California's eight veterans' homes, which may be an affordable alternative to private long-term care services.
California VA Benefits and Health CareCalifornia VA Benefits and Health Care is a dependable source of support for senior veterans in California. The agency offers health care services, disability benefits, guidance on pension arrangements and housing options. It assists with record management as well as planning for burials and memorials. Eligibility for services is determined based on service record, residency and personal circumstances. Through its comprehensive services, the organization prioritizes veterans' well-being.

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in California

Memory care facilities in California are categorized as residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) and are regulated by The California Department of Social Services — Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD). Standard RCFEs are licensed as non-medical facilities and are not required to have doctors on staff. RCFEs that are approved to accept memory care residents must meet additional licensing requirements to ensure the safety and proper care of memory-impaired residents, including special staff qualifications and training, building design features, and more. 

Scope of CareMemory care in California is delivered at home or in a residential care facility by caregivers who can assist seniors with activities of daily living. Permitted services within the state’s scope of care include bathing and dressing assistance, medication monitoring and assistance, in-person supervision and non-medical interventions to support seniors’ health and well-being.
Care Plan RequirementsNew memory care residents in California must have a comprehensive care plan developed in cooperation with doctors and responsible family members. Care plans must include an assessment of the resident’s mental and cognitive function, physical and behavioral health and personal needs. Other intake requirements include a negative TB test, negative diagnosis for contagious diseases and a personal history evaluation by a licensed physician.
Medication Management RequirementsNon-licensed staff at residential care facilities are permitted to assist residents with tracking and managing their prescription medications, provided the medication is indicated for assisted administration. Medical decisions to administer new medications must be made within the scope of care of a certified medical practitioner.
Staff Screening RequirementsStaff at California’s licensed memory care facilities must pass a pre-employment criminal background check. Workers who have contact with senior residents must be at least 18 years old, while facility administrators must be at least 21.
Staff Training RequirementsEntry-level staff at residential care facilities must undergo an initial 40-hour course of training. Half of this training time must be complete before the first day of work, and the other half may be completed within the first four weeks of employment. Staff members must pass an annual 20 hours of continuing education in senior care.Administrators must pass an initial 80-hour training course and pass a state exam prior to starting work in an executive position. An additional 40 hours a year of classroom instruction is required to maintain state certification.
Medicaid CoverageMedi-Cal does not directly pay for the non-medical expenses associated with memory care. Some needs, such as medication and medical supplies, may be covered.
Reporting AbuseSuspected elder abuse and/or neglect can be reported to local law enforcement or the long-term care ombudsman hotline at (800) 231-4024.

Frequently Asked Questions

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