Dementia is a silent epidemic and one of the most serious health concerns facing older Iowans today. More than 5.7 million Americans, including 66,000 Iowa residents, are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to increase by 10% by 2025. According to estimates, over half of all nursing home residents have some form of dementia. Additionally, Alzheimer’s disease causes 1,400 fatalities annually, which makes it the state’s sixth-leading cause of death.

Memory loss doesn’t just affect the patient. It also impacts more than 136,000 caregivers who provide 150 million hours of unpaid assistance annually. While some families provide care at home, this can become a burden when individuals must juggle full-time jobs and other responsibilities. Families who are looking for a way to protect their loved ones’ health and safety have a variety of options, including adult day programs and full-time services provided in a dementia-specific unit.

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.

Families who are ready to explore long-term care options will find information about financial assistance programs, free memory care resources and government benefits in this guide.

The Cost of Memory Care in Iowa

While memory care is often provided within larger assisted living communities, it involves a higher level of personal support, which comes at a greater cost. Memory care is typically 20% to 30% more expensive than assisted living. All cost estimates use national data that has been adjusted based on this assumption. Furthermore, local rates vary based on geographic location and the type of services the community provides.

Memory Care Costs in Nearby States

Assisted living and memory care costs in Iowa are very close to the national average, according to data from Genworth Financial. The company’s annual Cost of Care Survey found that Iowans typically pay $5,098 per month, which is just $35 more than the national average.

Costs tend to be moderate when compared to other Midwestern states. Rates are roughly $336 higher than Nebraska and Minnesota and a whopping $1,500 higher than Missouri, which is one of the most affordable states in the region. On the other hand, memory care residents in Iowa pay $115 less per month than those in Illinois, where rates are slightly higher than the national average of $5,064.













Cost of Other Types of Care in Iowa

With an average monthly cost of $5,098, memory support is one of the most expensive types of long-term care in the state, but it’s just one option to consider. Seniors who can live at home with assistance may benefit from adult day health care, which costs just $1,376 per month.

In-home care is another option. The cost of home health aides and homemaker services is $4,767 per month for 44 hours of weekly care. This is approximately $690 more than assisted living, which also includes room and board. Memory care can be an attractive alternative to skilled nursing. The average monthly cost is $1,244 lower, and residents enjoy a less restrictive setting.


Memory Care


In-Home Care


Home Health Care


Adult Day Care


Assisted Living


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Memory Care in Iowa’s Top Cities

Comparing Costs Across Iowa

According to survey data, the average cost of memory care in Iowa’s five largest metropolitan areas ranges from $4,625 in Sioux City to $5,625 in Iowa City. In the capital Des Moines, seniors pay $5,438 per month for memory care, which is $340 more than the state median, and monthly rates are $108 higher than average in Davenport. Families who are looking for a more budget-friendly alternative may consider Cedar Rapids. With an average cost of $5,025, monthly rates in this community are $75 lower than the state median.


Des Moines


Cedar Rapids




Sioux City


Iowa City

Financial Assistance for Memory Care in Iowa

Iowa Home- and Community-Based Services Elderly Waiver

Iowa’s Home- and Community-Based Services Elderly Waiver is one of seven financial assistance programs available through Medicaid and the state’s division of Long Term Support Services. It helps with the cost of assisted living and personal care as well as mental health outreach, nutritional support, housekeeping and transportation. The program provides up to $1,365 or $2,792 per month, depending on the level of care required. Documented cognitive health challenges or memory issues can help applicants meet medical eligibility criteria.

Who is Eligible?
This waiver is available to Iowa residents who are aged 65 years or older and require skilled or nursing care as determined by the state’s Medical Services Unit. Income is typically capped at 300% of the federal poverty level; although, some exemptions are available.

How to Apply
Applications for the Iowa HCBS Elderly Waiver are handled by the Department of Human Services. Residents can begin the process online, by phone or by visiting the nearest DHS office.

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

Established in 1986, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly is an innovative managed care system that enables older adults to receive emergency medical care, primary care and community-based supports through a single organization. It also offers skilled nursing and assisted living through a network of contracted providers.

According to the National PACE Association, approximately 50% of participants have some form of dementia. In Iowa, PACE services are provided by Immanuel Pathways. The organization operates PACE centers in Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Windsor Heights and serves individuals in 16 counties across western and central Iowa.

Who is Eligible?
To qualify for PACE, residents must be aged 55 or older, require a nursing home level of care and reside in a qualifying geographic area. Many participants are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, and private-pay options are available for those who exceed Medicaid income limits.

How to Apply
Interested individuals can contact Immanuel Pathways to begin enrollment. Program administrators in southwestern Iowa can be reached at 712-227-6440. Central Iowa residents may call 515-512-4908.

VA Aid & Attendance

Aid & Attendance is a pension supplement available to veterans, spouses and survivors. It can help with the cost of personal assistance needed to perform activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and eating. As with other pension funds, proceeds can be used for memory care or other day-to-day expenses at the beneficiaries’ discretion. Furthermore, the cost of long-term care can be deducted from the individual’s income to increase their benefits allowance.

Who is Eligible?
Disabled adults and seniors aged 65 or older may qualify for this benefit if they have a documented need for personal assistance and currently receive a basic military pension. Benefits are also available to current nursing home residents and individuals who are bedridden.

How to Apply
Applications can be submitted to the regional pension management center or the nearest VA office. Individuals must complete VA Form 21-2680, which requests medical information from a physician.

Free and Low-Cost Memory Care Resources in Iowa

Iowa families who are dealing with memory loss can access critical services and supports through community groups, national associations and government agencies. Learn more about free and low-cost memory care resources available to Iowans statewide.

Alzheimer’s Association Greater Iowa Chapter800-272-3900The Greater Iowa Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association manages nine regional offices that serve older adults and caregivers. The association operates a 24-hour helpline and sponsors support groups, advocacy initiatives and fundraising events. Residents can also access online resources, such as printable publications, educational guides and message boards.
Lutheran Services in Iowa563-582-0044This faith-based charity offers respite care and community-based supports in all 99 counties. Residents in Des Moines and Clifton can join First Circle Friends, a daytime respite care program that’s staffed by trained volunteers and designed especially for individuals with early to mid-stage memory loss.
Area Agencies on Aging800-532-3213Iowa is home to six regional Area Agencies on Aging operated in partnership with the state. These nonprofit organizations can provide options and counseling for individuals who are considering memory care or other skilled services. Staff members also help individuals compare insurance plans, enroll in Medicare/Medicaid and access dementia-related services.
Iowa Legal Aid800-532-1275This statewide organization operates more than a dozen regional offices and manages the Legal Helpline for Older Iowans, which can be reached at 800-992-8161. Staff attorneys assist low-income residents with legal issues related to housing, health care, government benefits and consumer services. It can also help residents with power of attorney documents that may be needed when individuals are unable to manage their own affairs.
Iowa Compass800-779-2001Sponsored by the Department of Human Services and the University of Iowa, this online resource connects state residents with relevant resources in their community. It maintains a list of in-person support groups for dementia and Alzheimer’s, and it provides information about community-based services, long-term care providers and financial assistance programs.
Save Your Brain515- 281-7689Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Save Your Brain offers educational materials and interactive tools designed to increase awareness of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. Residents can take an online memory impairment quiz and learn how to protect their cognitive function through diet, exercise and social activities.
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics319-356-2580The University of Iowa’s health care system provides a variety of services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, mild cognitive impairment and dementia through its Neurology Clinic and Cognitive and Memory Disorders division. Neurologists offer imaging services and behavioral management plans as well as opportunities to participate in clinical research and pharmaceutical trials.

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in Iowa

In Iowa, residential care facilities and assisted living programs that accept individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related cognitive impairments must be licensed as dementia-specific units. These facilities are overseen by The Department of Inspections and Appeals, Health Facilities Division, which sets strict standards for all aspects of care.

Scope of CareDementia-specific residential care facilities and assisted living programs provide 24-hour personal assistance in a homelike environment that allows for self-directed care while promoting individual choice, dignity, privacy and independence. Certified units may accept residents with Stages 4 through 7 dementia as rated on the Global Deterioration Scale.
FacilitiesTo become a certified memory care unit, RCFs and ALPs must provide written policies and procedures regarding service plans and staffing. They must also establish admission and discharge criteria specific to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Additionally, all exits must have door alarms and specialized locking systems that can be disabled during an emergency.
Care PlansIndividuals must be assessed before admission into a dementia-specific assisted living program. Programs for residents with cognitive impairments must include scheduled and unscheduled activities based on the individual’s interests and abilities. Care plans are typically established by a multidisciplinary team and must be reassessed as needed or following significant changes in the residents’ health or cognitive status.
Medication ManagementDementia-specific units permit medication administration by the resident or by qualified staff members. Employees can assist residents with medication reminders, prompting and other setup procedures. In most cases, such activities must be overseen by a registered nurse.
StaffingNursing aides who care for cognitively impaired individuals must complete 75 hours of hands-on training, including 16 hours of precontact instruction. All personnel involved in dementia-specific programs must complete eight hours of relevant training at the beginning of their employment and during each consecutive year. Training focuses on 12 areas relevant to cognitively impaired residents. Similar rules apply to residential care homes. Background checks are required.
Medicaid CoverageThe Iowa HCBS Elderly Waiver covers the cost of self-directed attendant services and personal supports provided by residential care facilities and dementia-specific assisted living programs.
Reporting AbuseElder abuse occurring within a licensed health care facility must be reported to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals at 877-686-0027 or by email at Iowa law requires allegations of misconduct to be investigated by an expert with special training related to abuse and dementia.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does memory care cost in Iowa?

Memory care in Iowa costs approximately $5,098 per month, which is slightly higher than the national average. Based on survey responses from major metropolitan areas, seniors can expect to pay anywhere from $4,513 to $5,751.

Are there financial assistance programs for memory care in Iowa?

Yes, the state’s Home- and Community-Based Services Elderly Waiver, which is available through Medicaid, can help with the cost of personal care provided in assisted living facilities and memory care units. Similar benefits are available to veterans, and some nonprofit senior living communities offer financial aid.

What are activities of daily living?

Activities of daily living, also called ADLs, are a set of tasks that individuals must perform to live safely and independently. They include dressing, bathing, grooming, meal preparation and eating.

What types of therapies are offered in memory care facilities?

Memory care units may feature brain fitness programs, multisensory Snoezelen therapy rooms and life skills stations that allow residents to complete familiar everyday tasks. Pet therapy and music are also beneficial.

What security features are present in memory care facilities?

Memory care is typically provided in a secure unit that has locked entryways and exits and secure outdoor common areas. Some facilities use wristbands to track residents’ movement. Safety is also enhanced by the features that aren’t included, such as working stoves in residents’ apartments.