Alzheimer’s disease is a major issue for seniors in California, and for the families and other loved ones affected by it. In 2020, an estimated 690,000 California seniors have been diagnosed with the condition, and that number is set to rise to 840,000 people by 2025. Alzheimer’s disease is California’s third leading cause of death, claiming nearly 17,000 people a year. That is an increase of over 267% just since 2000. California’s large population of seniors with dementia make an average of 1.5 hospital trips a year per person, placing heavy demands on the systems the state has to care for them.

Memory care facilities in California care for seniors with all forms of dementia by providing room and board, appropriate medical care and continuous supervision. Residential Alzheimer’s care facilities usually have low staff-to-resident ratios, and seniors with dementia get fairly close contact with the caregivers who look after their needs. Memory care facilities also often build close-knit communities of seniors living together and spending time doing activities as a group. For many families, knowing that a senior loved one is being looked after in the clean, safe and professional environment of a memory care home brings great peace of mind.

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 goes over the basics of finding high-quality memory care in California. Read on to learn more about Alzheimer’s care, dementia management options and resources that can help pay for memory care for a loved one you care for.

The Cost of Memory Care in California

Memory care in California is generally 20% to 30% more expensive than the cost of assisted living for most families. Secondary costs associated with care, such as caregiver assistance and durable medical supplies, tend to be similar to what they are for other types of senior care. To estimate the likely cost of memory care in a given area, therefore, it’s usually enough to add at least 20% to the baseline cost of assisted living in the same city.

Memory Care Costs in Nearby States

Memory care in California costs seniors an average of $5,400 a month, according to the 2019 Genworth Cost of Care Survey. This is significantly higher than the national cost for similar care, which averages $4,861 a month. This is to be expected, since the overall cost of living in California is up to 50% higher than national costs for common personal expenses. Nearby states are generally less expensive than California, such as in Nevada and Arizona, where monthly costs are $4,080 and $4,500 a month, respectively. Oregon rates are effectively the same as in California, at $5,399 a month. Washington State is an exception, with costs that are $1,200 a month higher than the California average, at $6,600 a month for memory care.




United States Average









Cost of Other Types of Care in California

Memory care is an affordable choice of senior care for many California families. At $5,400 a month, memory care is competitive with in-home care and homemaker services, which run to $5,335 and $5,339 a month, respectively. Skilled nursing care in the state is significantly more expensive than memory care, at $8,760 a month for a semi-private room. Assisted living and adult day care are both less expensive options than memory care, at $4,500 and $1,688 a month, respectively.


Memory Care


In-Home Care


Home Health Care


Adult Day Care


Assisted Living Facility


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Memory Care in California’s Top Cities

The cost of memory care varies by a considerable margin throughout the state of California. Some cities in the state, such as Los Angeles and Sacramento, track precisely with California’s average cost for memory care, at $5,400 a month for each. San Diego and San Francisco are somewhat more expensive than the average, at $5,700 a month in each city. Redding is somewhat less expensive, at $5,100 a month for memory care. The most expensive surveyed city in California for memory care is San Jose, where costs average $7,024 a month — $1,624 a month more than the state average. The least expensive city, Riverside, has memory care costs of $4,230 a month — $1,170 a month less than the state average.


Los Angeles


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Financial Assistance for Memory Care in California

Assisted Living Waiver (ALW)

The California Department of Health Care Services administers the state’s Assisted Living Waiver (ALW) program, which pays up to $82 a day to support low-income seniors with a medical need for caregiver and memory care support, including personal supervision. The waiver program pays caregivers for help with medication monitoring and reminders, meal preparation and assistance with the activities of daily living.

Assisted Living Waivers are accepted by residential care facilities in the state’s 15 most populous counties. Together, these counties are home to 85% of the whole state’s population. The ALW does not pay for board and care in a residential care facility, but the program is able to pay for secondary expenses that often come with memory care.

Who Is Eligible?
Seniors who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, live full-time in California and have a medical need for residential care can qualify for the Medi-Cal Assisted Living Waiver. Applicants must meet income and asset limitations for Medi-Cal and waive placement in a higher-level residential care facility.

How to Apply
Seniors or their loved ones can apply for an ALW directly through a Medi-Cal caseworker or through the benefits coordinator at a participating residential care facility. Applications can also be requested online, by mail or by phone from the Department of Health Care Services.

P.O. Box 997417, MS 4607
Sacramento, CA 95899-7417
(916) 552-9200

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)

California’s In-Home Support Services program pays a bi-weekly stipend to support direct caregiver assistance for low-income seniors who need personal care. Services can be provided in the senior’s own home, a family home or at a residential care facility. Funds are paid through beneficiaries or their guardians, who can hire and manage the caregiver of their choice. Caregivers may be family members or friends, provided they pass a background check and attend a one-day orientation.

Who Is Eligible?
IHSS is available to all seniors in California who qualify for Medi-Cal. To be eligible, seniors must meet Medi-Cal’s income and asset limits, permanently reside in the state and be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Beneficiaries must also have a medical need that justifies placement in a memory care setting or another residential setting but be willing to waive placement in favor of caregiver support.

How to Apply
Seniors or their guardians can apply for an IHSS waiver through their Medi-Cal case worker. Applications can also be requested online or by mail from the California Department of Social Services.

California Department of Social Services
744 P Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-8848

Free and Low-Cost Memory Care Resources in California

Several free and low-cost resources are available in California to help seniors with the costs of memory care beyond what is provided by Medi-Cal and its waiver programs. These resources help seniors in memory care with monthly expenses and personal or social services.

Program NameContact InformationServices Available

Disease Prevention and Health PromotionContact a local Area Agency on Aging (AAA)California’s Disease Prevention and Health Promotion program offers free health screenings and social services support for seniors with a social or medical need for them. Offered services include health and nutrition screenings, caregiver education and group support, physical fitness and health classes and fall prevention training.
California Nutrition ServicesCall the California Department of Aging’s Nutrition Services office at (800) 510-2020The California Nutrition Services program provides health and nutrition screenings at locations throughout the state. Health checks include Alzheimer’s and dementia screening. The program also delivers fresh meals at no cost to low-income seniors who live independently, with family or in a residential care setting.
Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP)Contact a local HICAP county office by calling: (800) 434-0222HICAP helps medically needy seniors and their guardians get health insurance and planning services to help manage their care. Services include insurance planning, estate planning and advice for financial and legal issues.
Congregate Nutrition ProgramContact a local Area Agency on Aging (AAA)The Congregate Nutrition Program is a federally funded state program that is available throughout the state of California. Meals and nutrition screenings are provided at senior centers and other locations around the state, with counseling provided at select locations. Other program services include social events and volunteer opportunities, with an emphasis on serving the needs of rural and minority populations in California.

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in California

Memory care facilities in California are considered by the state to be residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs). These facilities are licensed through the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division. This state agency imposes several requirements on licensed facilities, including memory care, assisted living and hospice providers.

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

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 (237)