California is the most populous state in the nation, with close to 40 million residents as of 2021 Census estimates, and it’s home to 5,807,200 people aged 65 and over. About 690,000 seniors have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, with that number expected to grow to 840,000 Californians by 2025.

Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are likely to need long-term care at some point, such as the care found in dedicated memory care facilities and units. They may also require hospitalization due to accidents and other related complications. California has some of the best hospitals in the country, including UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and UCSF Health in San Francisco. Even so, California had 16,859 fatalities due to Alzheimer’s in 2019, making it the third leading cause of death. The average cost of memory care in community-based facilities throughout the state is $6,562 per month.

Memory care can either be offered on its own in a community designed especially for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or, more often, it’s provided as a service in a separate wing of an assisted living facility. Memory care programs are designed specifically for those with memory impairment, and the facilities often coordinate social activities and schedules specifically for the needs of those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

This guide helps seniors and families learn more about memory care services in California. We’ve included cost comparisons with other areas and levels of care, possible sources of financial assistance and health care coverage as well as other relevant resources and legal requirements.

The Cost of Memory Care in California

There is no authoritative cost information for memory care throughout the United States, but it generally is 20-30% more expensive than assisted living care and is typically provided in a separate unit of these facilities. As such, we’ve added 25% to the assisted living costs reported in the Genworth Financial 2021 Cost of Care Survey to calculate memory care costs. Californians pay $937 per month more than the average American requiring memory care. All neighboring states have lower costs, with Nevada and Arizona being the most affordable at $4,687 and $5,000 per month, respectively. Oregon’s memory care costs are just $256 below the California average. Further north in Washington, the cost is significantly higher than that of California and the nation overall, at $7,500 per month.

$6562

California

$5625

The United States

$5000

Arizona

$4687

Nevada

$6306

Oregon

$7500

Washington

Within the state of California itself, memory care costs vary considerably, with coastal cities priced higher than those further inland. Santa Rosa, San Francisco and Salinas offer some of the least affordable memory care in California, at $8,810, $7,899 and $7,500 per month, respectively. Bakersfield and Riverside are much more affordable options, with averages of $4,687 and $5,000, respectively. Larger cities in southern California have costs in line with the state average, including San Diego and Los Angeles at $6,844 and $6,562 per month, respectively.

$6844

San Diego

$6562

Los Angeles

$5000

Riverside

$4687

Bakersfield

$7500

Salinas

$7899

San Francisco

$8810

Santa Rosa

As is the case in most parts of the country, memory care in California is the second-most expensive level of senior care, at $6,562 per month. Nursing home care is priced higher by more than $3,200 per month. In-home services and home health care are priced lower than memory care by $461 per month. Adult day care services are the least expensive, at an average of $1,842 per month, but may also the least suitable for seniors with memory issues. Assisted living facilities cost less than memory care services by an average of $1,312 per month.

$6562

Memory Care

$6101

In-Home Care

$6101

Home Health Care

$1842

Adult Day Care

$5250

Assisted Living Facility

$9794

Nursing Home Care

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.

Medi-Cal Eligibility Requirements:

  • Individuals must have no more than $2,000 in countable assets ($3,000 for a couple)
  • Individuals applying based on income must earn no more than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, which calculates to $17,609 per year as of 2022 ($23,792 for a couple)
  • Senior applicants must be aged 65 or older
  • People with disabilities and/or blindness as determined by the Social Security definitions are eligible
  • Residents of skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care homes are eligible
  • Applicant must be a California resident and U.S. citizen/national to qualify for full-scope Medi-Cal

Anyone enrolled in CalFresh, CalWorks, SSI/SSP, Refugee Assistance and/or Foster Care/Adoption Assistance programs are automatically eligible for Medi-Cal.

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.

Program Name

Contact Information

Description

Call (800) 300-1506 for assistance or visit the website for live chat and in-person options

Covered 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.

Call (800) 434-0222 to locate the nearest office or visit the website to find local services

California'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.

How to Apply

How It Works

Aid and Attendance

Learn more and apply online at va.gov.

Veterans 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 Mortgages

Learn more about your options and how to apply at ftc.gov

If 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) Insurance

Learn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at acl.gov.

Seniors 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

Help is available throughout California for seniors and people with disabilities, whether they’re still living in their own home or have relocated to a memory care or assisted living facility, as well as for those in nursing homes who wish to transition to another form of senior care.

Program Name

Contact Information

Services Available

Call (800) 510-2020 or visit the website to find the closest AAA office and local contact details

Each part of California is served by a local AAA office. These agencies help seniors find free and low-cost programs designed to help seniors and people with disabilities. Health Promotion services provide education and assistance for people with chronic diseases and other conditions. Information on dealing with memory problems is also available. Generally, eligibility for AAA services begins at age 60. Some programs may have additional requirements such as income and medical status.

Call (800) 510-2020 to request information on a nearby ADRC

ADRC services are provided at no cost via local Area Agencies on Aging, but are not available through all AAAs statewide. The services provided by an ADRC are typically more specialized and/or urgently required than those offered elsewhere. Residents can seek short-term services, which are put in place quickly to reduce the risk of institutionalization to avoid being placed in a nursing home until a long-term plan is created. Transition services for those already in a nursing facility or hospital are also offered.

Call the national helpline on (800) 272-3900 or visit the website for information and local resources

The 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.

(800) 390-2699 – Option 1 / (800) 900-0706 – TTY

This 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.

Visit the website for information and a list of organizations by county

LawHelpCA provides a searchable database of articles and information related to the problems faced by Californian seniors and their families, such as denial of benefits, substandard care, fraud/scams and other issues. This website can also help residents find free or low-cost personalized advice and legal representation in court for civil (noncriminal) matters. LawHelpCA services are supported by the State Bar of California and the Legal Aid Association of California.

COVID-19 Rules for Memory Care in California

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including cdph.ca.gov and publichealth.lacounty.gov . These rules apply to nursing homes, and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/2/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.

Visitation Policies

Rules for California Communities

Are loved ones allowed to visit to provide emotional support?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are relatives allowed to visit for end-of-life care?

Yes

Are residents required to quarantine after visiting with a loved one?

No (Conditions Apply)

Are visitors required to wear PPE (including masks) in order to visit residents?

Yes

Are non-medical contractors (such as hairdressers and entertainers) allowed in senior living facilities?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?

Yes

Are visitors checked for elevated temperatures?

Yes

Are visitors required to answer questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?

Yes

Outings & Social Activities

Rules for California Communities

Are residents allowed to leave (errands, visiting family, etc.) for non-medical reasons?

Yes

Are residents who leave required to quarantine when they return?

No (Conditions Apply)

Are senior living communities required to cancel all group outings?

Not Available*

Are residents allowed to eat meals together in a common area?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are residents allowed to gather in common areas for group activites?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

*Note: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.

COVID-19 Safety Measures for Staff and Residents

Rules for California Communities

Are staff members regularly required to do a temperature check?

Yes

Are staff members regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes

Are staff members members regularly required to do a health and safety screening, including questions about travel, contact with positive cases, etc?

Yes

Are residents regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes

Are residents regularly checked for elevated temperatures?

Yes

Are residents regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in California

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in California
Scope of Care
Memory 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 Requirements
New 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 Requirements
Non-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 Requirements
Staff 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 Requirements
Entry-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 Coverage
Medi-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 Abuse
Suspected 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

How Much does Memory Care Cost in California?

Memory care in California costs an average of $5,400 a month for room and board in a residential setting. Extra services may add extra cost to the basic fees a facility charges.

Does California Medicaid Pay for Memory Care?

Medi-Cal is a low-income health insurance program that does not pay for the non-medical expenses of memory care. Waiver programs do support some caregiver and supply needs for qualified beneficiaries.

Does Medicare Pay for Memory Care?

Medicare does not pay for long-term residential care, though Part A coverage does usually include up to 100 days of inpatient care at a nursing home. Some outpatient services may be covered under Part B.

What are “Activities of Daily Living?”

The term “activities of daily living” refers to the normal chores caregivers are expected to help seniors with. The term covers actions related to personal care, such as bathing and dressing, and to chores around the home, such as cooking and cleaning.

What Is the Difference Between Memory Care and Assisted Living?

Assisted living is generally appropriate for seniors who live mostly independent lifestyles, but who could use help with activities of daily living. Memory care is more for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Memory care facilities provide near-constant supervision of residents.

Memory Care Facilities in California (245)