California Memory Care


California Memory Care: Communities caring for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia care

California is an ideal place for senior care and senior living communities. The great weather and all of the cities full of culture and great food and beautiful geography contribute to California’s appeal. Because of the great year-round weather and other social benefits, California has a larger population of seniors and retirees. Most often when people think of care for aging adults, they envision a nursing home. There are many senior housing options aside from nursing homes. Many adults 65 years and older may require senior care at some point. A growing number of people living in long-term care communities live with cognitive impairment. Memory care in California provides care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in a comfortable and safe environment. The joy of life is a key principle of California memory care. Staff members view their job as a passion, and for them, the dignity and respect of residents and their families is priority number one.

There are many options for senior care, designed for the necessary care of aging adults.

Common terms that differentiate levels and types of senior living: 

  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)- typically include independent living, assisted living, residential care and skilled nursing services all on one campus.  
  • Independent Living Communities – provide residents a setting without the burden of home ownership. Residents commonly live in fully equipped private apartments or cottages from a studio to large two-bedroom units.  
  • Care Home or Adult Family Care Home- are private residences in a home-like setting that provide care services to a smaller more limited number of residents (typically 5-12 residents, depending on each state’s regulations). 
  • Assisted Living- provides housing and supportive care in a community setting, but the residents do not require 24-hour nursing care. 
  • Memory Care- a care setting for residents with memory loss or confusion. The community typically has a “secured” entry for residents that may wander. This care can be provided in different care settings depending on the state licensing requirements. 
  • Skilled Nursing is state licensed to provide a safe, therapeutic environment for people who require rehabilitative care 24 hours a day.

The specialized world of memory care in California

These communities are not nursing homes. Residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) is the official title for communities and facilities that provide memory care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia in California. These facilities include board-and-care homes with up to 15 residents and assisted living facilities with 16 residents or more.

Memory Care Communities are designed for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. These specialized care communities create programs designed to meet the needs of people who require specific care. Specially trained staff and a secure environment to ensure the safety of residents. Nursing homes may have a memory care wing.

Memory care in California offers specialized care to residents

Specific services in California memory care

  • Usually have entrances and exits that require a code to get in and out.
  • The communities are secured for the safety of residents. 
  • Sufficient staff to resident ratios
  • Specialized care is coordinated by trained staff to perform a range of services to support residents 24-hours a day. 
  • Appropriate 24 hour a day supervision
  • Procedures are designed to meet the needs of health and daily living activities and the social needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 
  • Organized calendars to keep residents engaged and active.
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Three meals a day focused on nutrition – and snacks
  • Annual medical assessments of each resident
  • Planned transportation for medical and dental care needs
  • Oversight and observation of each resident’s mental and physical health and condition

The importance of cognitive activities in memory care communities

These communities and relationships promote healthy and happy lives. The focus of activities is to keep residents with cognitive impairment engaged and active as possible. Typically, activities may be like the kind offered in other residential communities, such as a nursing home. The positive difference is the modification to keep residents with cognitive impairment engaged.

Activities in memory care to promote cognitive

  • arts and crafts groups and classes
  • additional activities compatible with memory care residents
  • social and recreational activities programs designed to the interests and abilities
  • secure open-air courtyards
  • game room
  • music and dancing

Specific features in memory care in California designed for the safety of residents with dementia

Memory care communities typically offer exclusive features designed for the safety of residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

  • Security cameras to supervise entry and exit points in the community. 
  • Personal medical alert devices. 
  • Keypad (or other security measures) locks on doors to prevent residents from wandering. 
  • Safety protocols in place which may include locked doors.

California memory care state regulations

The department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division licenses RCFE’s in California. (Important note) They are not required to have doctors or nurse on staff because they are licensed as non-medical facilities. Facilities must comply with specific licensing requirements to ensure the state’s standards of care for residents with dementia. Memory care facilities must have a written plan of operation.

Laws and regulations in California RCFEs

  • A pre-admission assessment of the individual’s functional abilities, physical and mental condition, and interests.
  • There must be medical assessment results signed by a physician to verify the necessary level of care.
  • Within two weeks, staff must meet the new resident and family or legal representation to configure a personalized care plan that details the strategy of care.
  • RCFEs may store medication but the resident must self-administer all medications (with assistance).
  • Facilities are not required to provide private room, but occupancy is limited to two residents in per bedroom.
  • There must be a certified administrator who manages daily operations. They are required to have an administrator or manager on-site 24 hours a day.

Staff requirements for memory care in California

Administrators are required to complete an 80hr long certification program and pass a written exam. Every two years they must complete 40 hours of continuing education, which includes 8hrs of Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Direct care staff who work with memory care residents must receive 12 hours initial training in dementia care (and eight hours of in-service dementia care service training every year. All facilities must have first-aid training.

How much does memory care in California cost?

Memory care in California costs 20-30% more than assisted living. This is because of the specialized resources and staff training necessary to provide such high-quality care. Care may be more expensive in a nursing home. The national average of cost (in a Genworth survey) for memory care is $5,600 per month. On average, California is about $6,500 per month.

Memory care in nearby states is typically less expensive than California:

  • Arizona • $5,000
  • Nevada • $4,700
  • Oregon • $5,300

Regionally, costs vary. Research the city in which you’re looking for care and contact facilities. Direct communication is the most clearcut way to understand costs in relationship to the necessary care your loved one requires.

How to pay for memory care in California?

You want to consider your payment options for assisted living, memory care, and care homes. For these services, Medicare is NOT an option for payment.

The most common payment for these services would be out of pocket Private Pay and assessing a combination of retirement funds, personal savings, and pension payments.

Medicaid can also be an option, be sure to see if you or a loved one qualifies.

Long-Term Care insurance is also a possible option in cases of chronic conditions, be sure to see if you or a loved one qualifies.

For our Veterans and spouses of veterans, be sure to assess Veteran Aid and your eligibility for these benefits.

Medicare – NO:

  • Medicare does NOT pay for Assisted Living.
  • People 65 years and older and individuals with end stage renal disease are eligible for Medicare benefits, no matter their income.
  • Coverage is meant for people in need of short-term care.

Private pay – YES:

  • Many families pay for assisted living with private funds.
  • Private pay can be a combination of retirement funds, personal savings, and pension payments.
  • Family members may contribute funds to pay for assisted living or other senior housing and care.

Medicaid – MAYBE:

  • Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans. Eligible participants include: low-income adults, elderly adults and people with disabilities.
  • Medicaid is administered by state, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by each state and the federal government.
  • Every state has their own individual Medicaid assistance program.
  • National guidelines are in place do decipher how states must spend Medicaid money, but with allowances toward the guidelines.
  • The state determines what levels of care will be covered by Medicaid, who is eligible, and how much the state will reimburse the care community.
  • If you are unsure whether you qualify for Medicaid, you should apply. You may be eligible depending on your household income, family size, age, disability and other factors.

Long-term Care Insurance – MAYBE:

Long term care insurance is a great way to pay for assisted living, and planning ahead is important when considering how to pay for senior housing and care. Nearly 75% of people over the age of 65 will require long-term care and services at some point. Buying into long-term care insurance when a person is in their 50s and 60s is the most common time to do so.

  • Long-term care insurance helps cover the costs of chronic medical conditions.
  • Individuals and couples with the ability to pay into long-term care insurance have the advantage of a head start in allocating funds for senior care.

Veteran Aid and Assistance – MAYBE:

This benefit is available to some military veterans and surviving spouses who live in an assisted living community and those who have in-home care.

  • There are specific guidelines, but a veteran may qualify for as much as $2,050 each month.
  • A veteran with a sick spouse may be eligible for $1,600 per month.
  • If a veteran has passed, their surviving spouse can qualify for $1,300 per month.

Questions to Ask

Finding an assisted living community can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on things to be observant of:

  • Make sure the facility is clean and well maintained. You can tell a lot about the operation by noting what is clean and maintained. Are doorknobs loose or damaged? Do you see any frayed carpet or trip hazards?
  • Visit during lunch hour to observe what the residents are eating. Ask questions about the nutrition program. Is there diversity in meals, healthy fruits and vegetables served at all meals, drink options?
  • Speak to residents and/or family members to learn their perspective.
  • Ask about staff and resident engagement. Get a feel for how staff interact with residents.
  • Ask about the life enrichment programs. Activities are crucial when it comes to quality of life and play a key role in care for older adults.
  • And finally (along with a plethora of more things to consider), get to know the leadership in the building. If you feel good around the Executive Director, Head Nurse, Lead Activities Director and even the Chef or Janitor, it is a good sign you can trust them with the care of your loved one.

Area Agencies on Aging The California Department of Aging (CDA) administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the State. These services are provided locally by contracted agencies. This webpage is intended for those who provide, or seek to provide a variety of aging services.

The Home Care Services Bureau is responsible for licensing Home Care Organizations including processing applications, receiving and responding to complaints and conducting unannounced visits to ensure compliance.

California Department of Aging Under the umbrella of the California Health and Human Services Agency, the California Department of Aging (CDA) administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the State. These programs are funded through the federal Older Americans Act, the Older Californians Act, and through the Medi-Cal program.

California Rural Indian Health Board The Pit River Tribe of California’s Rancherias in the operating area are as follows: * Montgomery Creek Rancheria * Roaring Creek Rancheria * Burney * Lookout Rancheria * XL Ranch Rancheria * Likely Rancheria * Big Bend Rancheria The main site, Burney Indian Health Clinic, in Burney, CA offers full time health care in many fields. As a service to the community the Shasta County W.I.C. Program is also located at the site in Burney. A satellite office, the XL Ranch Reservation Clinic, is located in Alturas, CA (Modoc County) providing referral and outreach services. The principal referral facility is Mercy Medical Center Hospital in Redding, CA which approximately miles from the main clinic site. This facility offers general medicine with 169 medical/surgical, 14 ICU, 14 CCU, 19 Pedriatrics, 29 Perinatal, 5 Acute/Respiratory and 6 ICCN beds

Eldercare Locator This is a great resource to search for specific care in specific counties and cities. This database is a nationwide resource that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources. Connect with services such as meals, home care or transportation, or a caregiver education or respite from caregiving responsibilities. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Medicare provides a search feature to find & compare providers near you, most senior housing and care providers are included on Find & compare plans in your area. Determine if you qualify for premium savings

Medicaid offers information on how to apply for Medicaid, eligibility criteria, links to local state offices, and additional resources.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Whether you are living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone with the disease, information and resources are available.

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Written by The Care Availability Team
Experts in the senior care & retirement living industries

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