Home to nearly 1.12 million seniors ages 65 and older, Tennessee remains a popular state for retirement. Its milder climate, lower cost of living and beautiful scenery provide seniors with a good quality of life. Tennessee also has a high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, as it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the state since 2015. Numbers continue to rise, with 140,000 cases expected by 2025, a 16.7% increase over a seven-year period.  

For seniors looking to stretch their retirement savings, Tennessee is beneficial in a number of ways. The cost of living is lower than it is nationally, and income from retirement accounts like pensions, 401Ks and IRAs isn’t subject to income taxes, nor is Social Security income. At the same time, the state’s overall Health Cost Index is higher than the U.S. average, though the average monthly cost for memory care remains moderately priced at $5,131, which is about $500 less than the national cost of $5,625.    

Memory care can be offered on its own in a community designed especially for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. More often, though, 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 includes a comparison of memory care costs in cities across the state as well as an overview of the various long-term care types. An overview of Medicaid waivers, plus steps and documents needed to apply are given. Financial options, free or low-cost resources, and a listing of Tennessee’s memory care regulations are also discussed.

The Cost of Memory Care in Tennessee

Note: As memory care is typically provided within assisted living residential facilities, its costs are usually 20-30% more than those for assisted living. Since no authoritative cost database currently exists, we’ve estimated the prices for memory care by adding 25% to assisted living care costs shown in Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey.  

Costing an average of $5,131 per month, memory care costs in Tennessee are quite a bit higher than in neighboring Mississippi, where rates are $4,375, about 15% less expensive. Alabama’s prices are similarly low at $4,379, while rates in Georgia increase only slightly, to $4,419. Kentucky’s costs are the lowest of the surrounding states, averaging $4,310 per month for memory care.   

$5131

Tennessee

$5625

The United States

$4310

Kentucky

$4375

Mississippi

$4379

Alabama

$4419

Georgia

Memory care prices differ depending on the city, with Chattanooga and Memphis costing above the state average, at $5,275 and $5,250, respectively. Rates in Johnson City and Nashville are just under, at $5,125. Knoxville, at $4,779, is about $350 less per month than the state average, while in Cleveland, memory care prices are substantially higher, at $6,044 each month. 

$5125

Nashville

$5250

Memphis

$5275

Chattanooga

$4779

Knoxville

$5125

Johnson City

$6044

Cleveland

Other forms of care available to Tennessee seniors range from adult day health care, the least-expensive option at $1,733, to nursing home services, the most expensive at $7,148 for a semiprivate room and $7,665 for a private room. Memory care, at $5,131, falls somewhat in the middle of these costs, while assisted living averages $4,105. Home care and home health care, both delivered in the senior’s home, are $4,576 per month.

$1733

Adult Day Health Care

$4105

Assisted Living

$4576

Home Care

$4576

Home Health Care

$5131

Memory Care

$7148

Nursing Home (semiprivate)

$7665

Nursing Home (private)

Does Medicaid Cover Memory Care in Tennessee?

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 Tennessee.

Tennessee residents 65 and older who qualify for Medicaid and are in need of memory care services can apply for TennCare Choices, the Long-Term Care Services and Supports program that delivers services so that nursing home placement can be delayed and seniors can stay within their communities longer. The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, is also available as an alternative to the Choices program, but only for those who live in Hamilton County and who meet other health and financial criteria.   

What Memory Care Services Are Covered by Medicaid in Tennessee?

Individuals who are looking to receive services in a memory care residential facility must first meet TennCare’s medical and financial requirements. Those found eligible who then qualify for the Choices program will use services based on their personal needs and current condition. These include assistance with daily living tasks such as getting in and out of bed, preparing and eating meals, and a personal emergency response system.

Seniors who are still at home or looking to transition to memory care also qualify for adult day care, home-delivered meals and home modifications to increase accessibility and safety. The PACE program provides similar services but is available to seniors 55 and older who need a nursing level of care, as opposed to the Choices program, which is available to seniors 65 and older.   

Memory Care Waiver Programs in Tennessee

TennCare Choices

Although it doesn’t cover room and board, the TennCare Choices program can provide services that are delivered in memory care residencies to those who are 65 and older and who meet one of two conditions: they require nursing services, or they are receiving SSI payments and are considered “at risk” of needing nursing home care. Some of the services provided include:

  • Homemaker services, such as room cleaning and laundry
  • Personal care visits to help with bathing, dressing and eating
  • Medication management

To apply, individuals who are not currently TennCare qualified need to contact their local Area Agency on Aging, who can help them apply or inform them of other programs if they don’t meet Medicaid eligibility criteria. Seniors who currently qualify for TennCare can learn more about the Choices program by calling their TennCare health plan, found on their TennCare card.

Program of All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly 

Meant for seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, PACE provides an interdisciplinary team that creates a coordinated and personalized care plan for seniors who qualify. PACE is meant to help keep seniors living within their communities and delay nursing home placement. Basic qualifications include:

  • Being 55 or older
  • Living in Hamilton County
  • Meeting nursing level of care criteria
  • Capable of living in the community safely

How to Know If You’re Eligible for Medicaid in Tennessee

To qualify for TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, you must meet specific eligibility criteria related to residency, age and citizenship status in addition to having limited income and assets. Specifically, you must:

  • Be 65 years or older, or be blind or have a permanent disability
  • Be either a U.S. citizen, legal alien or permanent resident
  • Have full-time Tennessee residency
  • Have no more than $2,000 in assets if applying as an individual
  • Income not exceeding $30,276 for previous five years if applying as an individual

2022 Medicaid Income Limits for Seniors in Tennessee

Income Limits* 

Asset Limits

Single Applicant

$30,276

$2,000

Two-Person Household

(Only One Person Applying)

$30,276

$2,000 for applicant and $137,400 for non-applicant

Two-Person Household
(Both People Applying)

$60,552

$4,000 ($2,000 per spouse)

*Per year  

When only one spouse is applying, the non-applicant’s income is not considered when determining eligibility. In addition, the non-applicant spouse may be eligible for a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance from the applicant spouse if their income is below the Spousal Poverty limit of $2,177.50 per month.

Non-countable assets in Tennessee include personal belongings, an automobile, burial trusts and a personal residence, if a non-applicant spouse resides there. If that isn’t the case, the applicant must have a written statement that they intend to return to their home if their condition improves. The home’s value must also not be greater than $636,000.

How to Apply for Medicaid in Tennessee

Applications for TennCare can be completed online, through the TennCare Connect portal. Paper applications can also be printed, completed and mailed to TennCare Connect, P.O. Box 305240, Nashville, TN 37230-5240. Seniors or family members can also apply by calling (855) 259-0701. 

Information You Will Need

Before applying for Medicaid in Tennessee, you’ll need documentation showing income from the past five years. Proof of all assets must also be included, as well as health and life insurance documents, five years worth of tax forms, and, if you receive Social Security benefits, a letter from the SS Administration showing the gross amount of SS income and any deductions taken.  

You should also have the following documents prepared before applying:

  • Drivers license or other government-issued ID verifying citizenship
  • Documents proving residency such as a rental agreement, mortgage statement or utility bills 
  • Proof of all investments, including 401K and pension retirement accounts, stocks, bonds or other assets
  • Documents pertaining to burial arrangements or funeral expenses
  • Documents showing proof of property sold or acquired during previous five years
  • Proof of will, power of attorney or other estate or care-related documents 

How to Get Help Applying for Medicaid

Tennessee families can get help applying for Medicaid in several ways. The state’s State Health Insurance Program, SHIP, can give information about Medicaid eligibility, as can local Area Agencies on Aging and Disability. TennCare Connect, the online Medicaid application portal, also provides over-the-phone assistance with commonly asked application questions.  

Program

Contact

Services Provided

(877) 801-0044

Providing unbiased counseling for seniors weighing their healthcare options, TN SHIP can offer help applying for Medicaid, as well as information about general eligibility requirements and comparisons between Medicaid and Medicare.  

(855) 259-0701

TennCare Connect is the self-guided portal for Medicaid applications. The website has a listing of FAQs, and representatives are available by phone to help those needing assistance. 

(866) 836-6678

Tennessee’s Area Agencies on Aging and Disability can provide families with answers to commonly asked Medicaid questions and may be able to provide referrals to additional local resources. 

Does Medicare Cover Memory Care in Tennessee?

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

Other Financial Assistance Options for Memory Care in Tennessee

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 toward 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 Tennessee

Free and low-cost resources are available throughout Tennessee to assist seniors, their caregivers and family members needing support. Some of these available resources include pro-bono legal aid, educational materials, clinical trials and support groups. 

Program 

Contact

Services Provided

(877) 236-0013

The state’s long-term care Ombudsman acts as an advocate for seniors facing concerns with their long-term care, such as abuse, admissions, discharges or transfers, and healthcare issues such as Medicaid or Medicare denials. Individuals can file a dispute after speaking with their Ombudsman, who then investigates the complaint, seeking to resolve the dispute to their client’s satisfaction. 

(844) 435-7486

A collaboration between five Legal Aid societies, the Tennessee Senior Law Alliance offers low-income seniors pro bono legal services pertaining to health care, finances, guardianship and housing. Calling the statewide hotline connects seniors with a local volunteer lawyer in their area. 

(800) 272-3900

The Alzheimer’s Association Tennessee Chapter supports families through advocacy, counseling and educational materials. The 24/7 hotline is open to take calls for those feeling overwhelmed and to give them tools, including local programs and services, to feel empowered. Resources for caregivers include support groups, information about warning signs, and diet and lifestyle modifications.   

Available online

The Tennessee Department of Health has a number of Alzheimer’s resources for seniors and their families to find support, connect with local organizations and plan their next steps. Caregivers can learn about financial and emotional assistance that’s available while their loved one is still at home, and those with early-onset symptoms can find information to help them better understand memory loss and what to expect moving forward.

(615) 322-8676

Part of Vanderbilt University’s Medical Center and available to those living in and around the Nashville area, Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center is an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and scientists that uses clinical research, community education and groundbreaking research to help families struggling with Alzheimer’s. Research opportunities are available to those 50 and older to receive information about their current health while contributing to knowledge about memory loss. Caregivers can locate support groups, and the website provides information about key research initiatives in early detection and prevention. 

COVID-19 Rules for Memory Care in Tennessee

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including tn.gov and cdc.gov. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 4/29/22, 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee

Tennessee memory care facilities are also known as assisted care facilities, and these facilities are licensed and regulated by the Tennessee Department of Health, Board of Licencing Health Care Facilities.

MEMORY CARE LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN TENNESSEE
Scope of Care
Assisted care living facilities that provide services to those living with Alzheimer's disease or memory loss may only provide services in accordance with the terms of the state-issued license. These facilities cannot admit or retain residents with medical or behavioral needs which exceed the capacity of the facility and the staff of the facility, including residents who need continuous skilled nursing care.
Care Plan Requirements
A plan of care developed in collaboration with the resident, their family members and their legal representative must be prepared within five days of admission to a licensed care facility. The care plan must be reviewed at least once every six months, or more frequently if the resident displays significant changes in their health or behavior.
Medication Management Requirements
Unlicensed care staff may provide medication reminders and supervise self-administration of medications prescribed to residents. Staff may not administer medication unless licensed to do so as a medical professional.
Staff Screening Requirements
ACLF staff need to clear a criminal record check prior to working in direct contact with residents.
Staff Training Requirements
Staff should have a basic understanding of the principles of memory care, and maintain an up-to-date knowledge through ongoing annual training.
Medicaid Coverage
Tennessee's Medicaid program covers care costs for memory care services delivered in an assisted living setting or a nursing facility through the TennCARE CHOICES home and community-based services waiver.
Reporting Abuse
Concerns regarding abuse, exploitation or neglect of a resident in a memory care program in Tennessee should be immediately reported to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the nearest law enforcement agency.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Memory Care Cost in Tennessee?

The average cost of memory care in Tennessee costs $5,131 per month.

Does Tennessee Medicaid Pay for Memory Care?

Yes. Seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of progressive-degenerative dementia who meet the financial eligibility requirements for Medicaid coverage can apply for TennCare’s CHOICES in Long-Term Services and Supports, a Medicaid home and community-based waiver. This waiver funds a range of medical and non-medical services and supports for those who require the level of care normally delivered in a nursing home setting, although CHOICES services are available to those who reside in assisted living facilities and other community settings.

What Security Features Are Present in Memory Care Facilities?

Memory care facilities generally have a number of security features designed to reduce wandering among residents living with memory loss. These features often include delayed-egress exit doors secured with a digital lock, monitored security cameras and enclosed outdoor spaces such as fenced yards and interior courtyards. Some memory care facilities also use WanderGuard, a non-invasive electronic monitoring system that allows caregivers to track the exact location of each resident through a wearable, wireless bracelet.

What Types of Services Does Memory Care Provide?

In addition to providing accommodations, housekeeping, laundry service and all meals, memory care facilities provide 24/7 supervision by specialized caregivers. Services may also include daily social and activity programming designed to promote health and wellness while slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss. Some facilities offer escorted outings to area attractions, music and pet therapy, and support groups for family members and friends of residents.

What Are Activities of Daily Living?

Activities of daily living are the basic everyday tasks each individual needs to complete in order to maintain their health and wellness, and comply with social standards around personal hygiene. Also known as ADLs, activities of daily living include using the toilet, getting dressed, bathing and grooming, and moving about one’s home.