Known for its laid-back, Southern lifestyle, beautiful beaches and antebellum architecture, South Carolina is called home by approximately 934,000 seniors ages 65 and older. In 2020, 95,000 of those retirees were living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to climb to 120,000 by 2025. Alzheimer’s and other types of degenerative dementia are one of the most insidious diseases affecting South Carolina seniors today, with numbers increasing nearly 169% since 2000.

With a lower cost of living, South Carolina is also one of the most tax-friendly states in the nation for retirees, letting seniors keep their Social Security earnings tax-free while providing a $15,000 deduction on all other types of retirement income. State taxes are also among the lowest in the states, so seniors can keep more retirement money in their pockets. The cost of healthcare is on par with the national average, and highly ranked hospitals include Charleston’s MUSC Health University Medical Center, whose Memory Disorders Clinic can provide treatment and support for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. When offered in a memory care facility, costs for residents average $4,515 each 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 discusses the costs of memory care in South Carolina, comparing rates across different cities and among the different types of long-term care. Information on potential financing options is provided, as are details about eligibility requirements and documentation needed to apply. An overview of South Carolina’s memory care regulations and a listing of free memory care resources is also provided. 

The Cost of Memory Care in South Carolina

Note: Memory care residential services are typically delivered inside assisted living communities and normally cost 20-30% more than those facilities. Since there is no authoritative source for current memory care pricing, rates shown below are 25% above assisted living care prices as shown on Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey.

At $4,515 per month, South Carolina’s memory care is competitively priced compared with neighboring states. Rates are about 12% higher in North Carolina, at $5,013, and the difference is even greater in Tennessee, where the monthly average is $5,131. In Georgia, memory care costs are very similar, at $4,419 each month. 

$4515

South Carolina

$5625

The United States

$5013

North Carolina

$4419

Georgia

$5131

Tennessee

Prices across South Carolina’s cities vary, with residents in popular beachside cities paying more than in places further inland. Memory care in Spartanburg, located in the northeastern part of the state, is right below the state average, at $4,500, and nearby Greenville’s costs are similar at $4,679. In Hilton Head Island, rates increase exponentially, to $5,625 per month, nearly $1,000 above the $4,515 state average. Myrtle Beach’s prices are also higher at $5,088. Charleston, the largest city in the state, has a similar average monthly cost of $4,931. The lowest memory care costs can be found for $3,329 a month in Sumter, located in the central part of the state.  

$4500

Spartanburg

$4679

Greenville

$5088

Myrtle Beach

$5625

Hilton Head Island

$3329

Sumter

$4931

Charleston

Other long-term care services available to South Carolina seniors include daily care provided at adult healthcare centers for $1,408 a day, all the way to nursing homes with clinical care, which cost $7,285 on average each month for a shared room. Residency in an assisted living facility, where assistance with daily living activities such as grooming, dressing or mobility is provided, costs $3,612. Seniors who wish to receive services in their homes pay between $4,433 and $4,481 a month on average, with professional medical care costing more than home care services such as cleaning, cooking or ADL assistance.   

$1408

Adult Day Health Care

$3612

Assisted Living

$4433

Home Care

$4481

Home Health Care

$4515

Memory Care

$7285

Nursing Home (semiprivate)

Does Medicaid Cover Memory Care in South Carolina?

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”), 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 South Carolina.

While South Carolina’s Aged Blind and Disabled (ABD) program, administered through its Healthy Connections Medicaid program, does not cover the cost of room and board at memory care facilities, for those who meet its eligibility requirements, it may pay for the cost of healthcare, personal care services and transportation. In addition, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provides similar services for those living in certain areas of the state who need care but can still live safely within the community. South Carolina’s Community Long Term Care waiver may also be an option for seniors still living at home who want to delay moving to a nursing home.

What Memory Care Services Are Covered by Medicaid in South Carolina?

Seniors who meet South Carolina Healthy Connections’ financial and medical criteria may be eligible to receive certain services, such as rehabilitation therapies, emergency devices, personal care and transportation while living in a memory care facility. The PACE program offers a comprehensive array of services tailored to meet the needs of each individual recipient. In addition to requiring specific income and medical criteria, this program is contingent upon the recipient living in one of eight South Carolina counties. The Community Long Term Care waiver delivers similar services but in a home setting as opposed to a residential facility. 

Memory Care Waiver Programs in South Carolina

Aged Blind and Disabled Program

The Aged Blind and Disabled Medicaid program delivers Medicaid benefits to those who are 65 and older, blind or disabled. Recipients must meet the Medicaid income and asset limits to qualify, though there are ways to set aside extra income and spend down excess assets. While this program doesn’t cover memory care room and board, it helps cover the costs of medical-related expenses such as:

  • Occupational or physical therapies
  • Assistance with daily living tasks such as grooming, bathing and eating
  • Medical transportation 

Seniors must follow the Medicaid application steps to apply for the ABD program and can apply online through Healthy Connections or by printing the applications and either mailing them to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services or submitting them in-person at their local county office. 

Program of All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly 

PACE is a combined Medicare and Medicaid program that provides services and supports to seniors living in their communities so they don’t need nursing home placements. Services include personal care, emergency devices, transportation, medical care and therapies. To qualify, you must:

  • Be 55 or older
  • Reside in a PACE service area (currently offered in eight South Carolina counties)
  • Be certified as needing a nursing level of care by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Be able to live safely in the community with PACE’s services

How to Know If You’re Eligible for Medicaid in South Carolina

Qualifying for South Carolina Healthy Connections, or Medicaid, depends on your citizenship status, residency, age or current health status as well as specific income and asset limitations. In general, Medicaid qualifications include:

  • Being a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or legal alien
  • Being 65 years or older, blind or have a permanent disability
  • Being a full-time resident of the state of South Carolina
  • Possessing no more than $8,400 in total assets, when applying as an individual
  • Earning no more than $13,590 income per year, when applying as an individual

Income Limits* 

Asset Limits

Single Applicant

$13,590

$8,400

Two-Person Household

(Only One Person Applying)

$13,590

$8,400

Two-Person Household
(Both People Applying)

$18,310

$12,600

*Per year    

Seniors 65 and older who meet other criteria but whose income or assets exceed limitations have options for becoming eligible. Those with incomes in excess of the specified Medicaid cap may put their extra money into a trust, which is then no longer considered countable income. Trusts must have the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services listed as the remainder beneficiary. They are overseen by trustees, who are appointed to use the money only for very specific purposes related to long-term care, such as covering the cost of room and board. Once established, these trusts cannot be changed or closed.

Assets in excess of the allowed limits can be “spent down” on purchases related to home care, such as home modifications such as wheel ramps; stair lifts; vehicle modifications; home improvements to plumbing, electricity or water heaters; paying off debt; or prepaying funeral costs and burial expenses. 

How to Apply for Memory Care in South Carolina

Seniors applying for the ABD Medicaid program in South Carolina can go through the Healthy Connections website or print and complete the paper copy version as well as the other additional applications available online. Printed applications can be mailed to: SCDHHS-Central Mail, P.O. Box 100101, Columbia, SC 29202-3101.

Applications can also be delivered to the local Healthy Connections county office

Information You Will Need

To apply for South Carolina Medicaid, you must show all income from the previous 5 years before the date of submission as well as all assets during the same time period. A letter from the Social Security Administration that shows the amount of gross Social Security income and any deductions is also needed. Life insurance, health insurance policies and all tax forms are required as well.

Additionally, you should have the following documents on hand before applying:

  • Copies of titles to any property owned or sold in the past 5 years
  • Government-issued ID that verifies residency status and citizenship
  • Copies of any prepaid funeral expenses or burial arrangements
  • Five years’ worth of investment activity, including any open or closed bank accounts, investments and trusts 
  • Documents pertaining to your estate or care, including a will and power of attorney

How to Get Help Applying for Medicaid

Several resources are available to help families applying for Medicaid. Wisconsin’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers can provide more insight into what criteria must be met for eligibility, and they also can provide screenings to confirm financial and physical eligibility for the Long-Term Care Programs. Application assistance is also available by calling ACCESS, the online application portal.    

Program

Contact

Services Provided

(888) 549-0820

South Carolina’s Medicaid program, Healthy Connections has staff who can help families with their application or answer general questions via their helpline. A listing of FAQs is also available online.

(800) 726-8774

Connecting individuals to benefits, SC Thrive conducts benefit screenings to determine what resources may be available for seniors.

Various by location

Located in counties across the state, Area Agencies on Aging can connect families to SHIP counselors who can explain the differences between Medicaid and Medicare and answer questions about benefits and eligibility. 

Does Medicare Cover Memory Care in South Carolina?

The short answer is that no, Medicare does not cover the cost of memory care in South Carolina. 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 South Carolina.

Other Financial Assistance Options for Memory Care in South Carolina

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 also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans 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 that one can take out against the value of their home, essentially converting some of the home's equity into cash. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically 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. Note that older adults who are already in need of Memory Care will not typically be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in South Carolina

A number of low-cost or free resources exist in South Carolina to help those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Caregiver support and support groups as well as legal advocacy and advice are some of resources offered statewide. 

Program 

Contact

Services Provided

800-868-9095

Staffed by volunteers, the South Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman advocates for individuals and families experiencing elder abuse or those who have concerns or complaints related to their care. Ombudsmen also provide education in person, virtually and through emails to the community about resident long-term care rights.   

800-272-3900

The local branch of the national nonprofit, the South Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association offers early stage dementia programs, one-on-one counseling, caregiver respite, support groups and advocacy training.

Contact through local Area Agency on Aging

The Legal Assistance for Seniors program provides pro bono legal advice and representation to eligible low-income seniors who need legal help pertaining to long-term care issues, consumer fraud, estate planning or Medicaid and Medicare denials.  

800-868-9095

The state agency that ensures seniors have access to services and supports they need, the South Carolina Department on Aging connects families with health benefits counseling, disease management programs and family caregiver support in the form of respite, counseling and financial assistance.  

Contact via website

A combined state and local effort of agencies and consumers supporting those living with Alzheimer’s disease, the ARCC educates, informs and coordinates services to improve memory care for seniors and their families.   

COVID-19 Rules for Memory Care in South Carolina

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including cms.gov and scdhec.gov. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 4/27/2022, 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 South Carolina 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

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

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 South Carolina 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?

No

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)

COVID-19 Safety Measures for Staff and Residents

Rules for South Carolina Communities

Are staff members regularly required to do a temperature check?

Yes

Are staff members regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

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 South Carolina

Assisted living communities and facilities that provide memory care services for two or more non-related adults in South Carolina must be licensed by the South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control. These facilities are known as community residential care facilities (CRCFs), and CRCFs that offer Alzheimer’s care are referred to as Alzheimer’s special care units (SCUs).

MEMORY CARE LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Scope of Care
Facilities can only admit and retain residents with needs that can be safely met at the facility based on the availability of skilled and unskilled staff, as well as any behavioral and/or medical issues presented by the residents.
Care Plan Requirements
New residents must be assessed by a direct care staff member from the facility within 72 hours of admission to determine if the resident is suitable for long-term placement in the facility. Within 7 days, the facility must develop a customized individual care plan (ICP) for the resident, and that plan must be reviewed at least once every 6 months or less, particularly if there are changes in the residents' behavior or medical status.
Medication Management Requirements
Memory care staff who have been trained in medication administration by a licensed nurse may administer routine prescription medications such as oral and topical medications. Injectables including B-12 shots and insulin can only be administered by a licensed registered nurse, with the exception of an emergency injection (Epi-pen) to treat anaphylactic reactions.
Staff Screening Requirements
Facility administrators are responsible for screening all direct and indirect care staff to determine their suitability for employment in a memory care program.
Staff Training Requirements
Each facility must have a designated administrator approved by the state Board of Long-Term Health Care Administrators, as well as a designated staff member who is responsible in the absence of the administrator. Facilities that serve Medicaid members must also have a licensed nurse on site at least one day each week, and all memory care staff need to be trained in basic first aid, infectious disease control, medication management and the care of people living with memory loss.
Medicaid Coverage
Facilities that accept Medicaid members must have a licensed nurse on-staff, and that nurse needs to be on-site at least one day each week.
Reporting Abuse
Abuse should be reported to local law enforcement authorities or South Carolina's Long Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-868-9095.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Memory Care Cost in South Carolina?

The average cost of memory care in South Carolina costs $4,515 per month.

Does South Carolina Medicaid Pay for Memory Care?

South Carolina’s state Medicaid plan, also known as Health Connections, will cover care costs for members who require residential care services due to a progressive-degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Members are responsible for the room and board portion of their care costs.

What Is the Difference Between Memory Care and Assisted Living?

Memory care and assisted living differ in that assisted living communities are designed for seniors who are largely free of any major cognitive issues such as dementia, while memory care programs are geared towards those diagnosed with dementia. Memory care programs have a higher staff to resident ratio, structured daily programming and an environment that’s designed to prevent dementia-related wandering, confusion and agitation.

What Security Features Are Present in Memory Care Facilities?

Memory care facilities usually have special security features to reduce wandering among residents. These features include exterior doors that are secured with a digital lock, interior and exterior motion-activated security cameras and an enclosed outdoor space such as a courtyard or fenced yard. Some memory care facilities are equipped with WanderGuard, a wireless system that immediately notifies on-site caregivers when a resident attempts to leave the secure memory care area. All memory care facilities in South Carolina have 24/7 awake caregivers.

What Types of Therapies Are Offered in Memory Care Facilities?

Pet, music and art therapy are some of the types of therapy offered in memory care facilities. Some programs also operate gardening programs, physical activities and aromatherapy. Residents may have access to on-site speech, physical and/or occupational therapy as well.