Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most pressing public health issues in North Carolina today. Currently, more than 180,000 senior citizens are living with this disease statewide, and this number is projected to increase by 23.5% in an eight-year span. Alzheimer’s affects daily life for millions of Americans and many more families and caregivers. However, this life-changing diagnosis is also associated with an increase in emergency room visits and hospital readmissions. Not only that, but Alzheimer’s is the sixth most common cause of death in the state.

Seniors and families who are struggling with this progressive condition may benefit from services provided by specialized memory care facilities, which are licensed as Special Care Units in North Carolina. These communities offer specially trained staff, advanced security features and customized activity programs. Residents may also have access to life skills stations, multisensory therapy rooms and brain fitness classes designed to maintain their cognitive function and social awareness.

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 provides a complete look at memory care in North Carolina, including expected costs, financial assistance programs, free resources and government regulations.

The Cost of Memory Care in North Carolina

Memory care in North Carolina is typically provided in assisted living facilities equipped with special care units or memory support wings. The cost of these services is usually 20 to 30% more than assisted living due to increased security features, stricter staffing requirements and specialized activities. Cost comparisons are based on the average cost of assisted living with appropriate adjustments. Additionally, rates can vary substantially depending on the facility’s location, programming and pricing structure.

Memory Care Costs in Nearby States

Average memory care costs in North Carolina are very close to the national average and slightly higher than other states in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic according to Genworth Financial’s Cost of Care Survey for 2019. Seniors can expect to pay approximately $5,000 per month, which is $830 higher than Georgia, $625 higher than South Carolina and just $125 higher than Tennessee where monthly prices range from $4,169 to $4,875. On the other hand, costs are $1,000 lower than in Virginia where seniors pay $6,000 per month on average.

$5000

North Carolina

$5064

National

$4375

South Carolina

$4169

Georgia

$4875

Tennessee

$6000

Virginia

Cost of Other Types of Care in North Carolina

With an average monthly cost of $5,000, memory support is one of the more expensive forms of long-term care in the state. These facilities provide a more traditional living environment than nursing homes, which charge more than $7,000 per month, and they provide a higher level of care than traditional assisted living facilities, which cost roughly $1,000 less per month.

Dedicated memory care units provide accommodations and services designed especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and they’re qualified to admit residents who cannot be accepted elsewhere. Although memory care costs $1,190 more per month than health aides, licensed facilities provide around-the-clock care, greater security and all-inclusive rates that cover room and board. Daytime programs, including options for those with cognitive health challenges, are another alternative. The average cost of these services is just $1,170 per month although the scope of care is limited.

$5000

Memory Care

$3813

In-Home Care

$3813

Home Health Care

$1170

Adult Day Care

$4000

Assisted Living Facility

$7057

Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Memory Care in North Carolina’s Top Cities

Comparing Costs Across North Carolina

Average memory costs in North Carolina vary by almost $3,000. Rates in the state’s largest cities range from $3,990 to $6,950 per month. Average prices are highest in Wilmington and the Research Triangle, which includes Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Costs are closer to the state median in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city. Seniors who are looking for more a affordable community may consider the midsize cities of Fayetteville and Greensboro where memory care costs $3,990 and $4,560 per month, respectively.

$5730

Charlotte

$6660

Raleigh

$4560

Greensboro

$6950

Durham

$5590

Winston-Salem

$3990

Fayetteville

$6760

Wilmington

Financial Assistance for Memory Care in North Carolina

State Plan Personal Care Services

North Carolina’s Personal Care Services program helps with the cost of hands-on assistance needed to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, ambulating or eating. Services can be provided in a variety of settings, including private homes and licensed residential facilities. This program serves individuals who don’t have access to informal caregivers and who don’t receive in-home services through another state-sponsored program.

Who Is Eligible?
To qualify for PCS, individuals must be financial eligible for Medicaid based on their income and resources. While a nursing home level of care is not required, applicants must need assistance with at least two activities of daily living as determined by an independent health assessment.

How to Apply
Referrals for PCS benefits must be made by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

State-County Special Assistance/Special Care Unit

Designed especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s and related memory impairments, the Special Assistance Adult Care Home Special Care Unit Program is an optional supplement that helps certain low-income residents of adult care homes with the cost of room and board. SA/SCU provides up to $1,515 per month plus a $46 personal needs allowance. Benefits may be reduced according to the individual’s countable monthly income.

Who Is Eligible?
Individuals must be 65 or older or living with a listed disability. Additionally, applicants must require the services of a Special Care Unit as verified by a medical provider. Financial eligibility requirements also apply.

How to Apply
Applicants for Special Assistance are handled by the Department of Social Services.

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly

Part of a national system, PACE uses an integrative model that allows residents to receive medical and long-term care through a single agency. Interdisciplinary teams include primary care physicians, social workers, therapists, dietitians and medical specialists. Several facilities in North Carolina include Snoezelen therapy rooms and special accommodations for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Who Is Eligible?
PACE is available to adults aged 55 and older who live in a specific geographic area served by one of the state’s 12 PACE locations. Enrollment is available to Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries, and private-pay options are available.

How to Apply
Applications can be submitted through local PACE providers. Additionally, individual must provide a copy of form FL-2 showing that they require a nursing home level of care as determined by their physician.

Project C.A.R.E.

Caregiver Alternatives to Running on Empty is the only state-funded respite program specifically for individuals who care for older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It provides up to three $500 service vouchers annually that can be used for in-home or institutional respite care, counseling, training and supportive services that benefit informal caregivers.

Who Is Eligible?
This program is open to family members and unpaid caregivers who serve individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related forms of dementia.

How to Apply
Applications can be submitted through Project C.A.R.E. Family Consultants at six Area Agencies on Agency statewide or by calling the state director at (919) 855-3462.

Free and Low-Cost Memory Care Resources in North Carolina

North Carolina residents have access to a wide array of local and statewide resources related to long-term care and Alzheimer’s disease. These programs provide free referrals, low-cost services and guidance to families who are caring for their loved ones or planning for the future.

ContactServices Provided
Alzheimer’s Association

1-800-272-3900This national organization operates two local chapters in North Carolina. The Western Carolina Chapter serves residents in Asheville, Charlotte and Greensboro, and the Eastern North Carolina Chapter serves residents in Raleigh and surrounding communities. This organization operates a 24-hour helpline, provides caregiver resources and funds research through annual events, such as The Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Adult Day Services

1-800-662-7030State-licensed adult day programs provide immersive activities and one-on-one assistance to older adults, including those with dementia. These services encourage social interaction and optimal cognitive functioning while offering a more cost-effective alternative to full-time institutional care. The Department of Social Services maintains a complete list of these programs online.
Dementia Alliance of North Carolina

919-832-3732This statewide organization is dedicating to supporting caregivers, funding cognitive research and promoting Alzheimer’s awareness through outreach events. The foundation organizes support groups and offers referrals for caregivers among other services.
Senior Centers

1-800-662-7030Operated by cities and counties across the state, North Carolina senior centers provide a variety of educational and recreational activities. They also connect residents with services and resources in their local community, such as Meals on Wheels, companionship visits and in-home assistance. The Department of Social Services maintains a comprehensive directory of senior centers located across the state.
Legal Aid of North Carolina

866-219-5262Legal Aid of North Carolina operates 20 pro bono law offices in mid- to large-size cities statewide. The organization helps law-income residents with critical legal issues related to housing, health care and civil rights as well as estate planning and power of attorney documents. Age-related services available available through the Senior Law Project.
The Carolinas Center

1-800-662-8859The Carolinas Center is an industry association and community outreach agency dedicated to ensuring that North Carolina residents have access to quality palliative and hospice care. It provides a variety of informational services and consumer guides related to advance care planning.
North Carolina 2-1-1

211Sponsored by United Way of North Carolina, 2-1-1 connects residents with a wealth of local resources, including prescription drug assistance, government benefits and emergency services related to housing, utilities and severe weather.

Memory Care Laws and Regulations in North Carolina

In North Carolina, residential facilities serving individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease must be licensed as special care units. These facilities are overseen by the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation’s Adult Care Licensure Section. The agency has specific regulations about staffing as well as the type of services that are provided.

Scope of CareLicensed facilities that provide memory care must have a detailed written mission statement describing the community’s philosophy and qualifications for caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other special needs.
Care PlansLong-term care communities must create personalized care plans within 30 days after admission. Assessments must be performed within 72 hours after admission or within 10 days following a significant change in health. Otherwise, care plans must be reviewed annually.
Medication ManagementAssisted living facilities can help residents self-administer medications. Staff members must complete appropriate training and be overseen by a licensed nurse who has been trained to follow the agency’s plan of care.
StaffingMemory care units must have at least one staff member for every eight residents during the day and evening and at least one staff member for every 10 residents at night. Facilities must employ full-time care coordinators, and the state also has requirements for training and continuing education.
Medicaid CoverageNorth Carolina Medicaid will pay for a variety of residential and community-based long-term care services through optional waivers. Residents must meet financial eligibility criteria and require a nursing home level of care based on their need for assistance with daily activities, such as bathing and dressing.
Reporting AbuseIndustry professionals in North Carolina must report suspected abuse to the Health Care Personnel Registry Investigations Branch within 24 hours of the incident. Abuse, neglect, exploitation and other forms of harm, such as chemical restraint, can be reported online, by phone, by mail or by calling (919) 855-3968.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does memory care cost in North Carolina?

Memory care in North Carolina costs an average of $5,000 per month, which is slightly lower than the U.S. median. This type of care is more affordable than skilled nursing, but it costs 20 to 30% more than conventional assisted living due to state-specific requirements related to staffing, security and activities.

Are there financial assistance programs for memory care in North Carolina?

Yes, North Carolina does pay for memory care through its Special Assistance Special Care Unit Program. This supplemental benefit provides up to $1,500 per month. Benefits are designed to help low-income seniors and disabled adults who are unable to afford the services that they require from a Special Care Unit. Benefits cover room and board, and additional programs can help with the cost of personal care.

Does Medicare pay for memory care?

Medicare does not pay for memory care or assisted living, but it will pay for hospice care provided in residential facilities. Other covered services include cognitive assessments, home safety evaluations and care planning. In most cases, North Carolina residents must turn to the state’s Medicaid program or purchase private long-term care insurance to receive help paying for memory care provided outside of a private home or skilled nursing facility.

What are activities of daily living?

Activities of daily living, also called ADLs, are a group of essential everyday tasks, including bathing, dressing, grooming, meal preparation and ambulating. Individuals who need assistance with multiple ADLs may qualify for a nursing home level of care, which could entitle them to additional benefits through Medicare or Medicaid.

What is the difference between memory care and assisted living?

Memory care and assisted living are similar in many ways. Both facilities provide housing, meals and scheduled activities. However, in a memory care community, all aspects of care are tailored to individuals with cognitive impairments. Staffing and training requirements are higher, and facilities are equipped with advanced security features to prevent wandering and other potentially dangerous behaviors.