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Guide to Senior Living in California

With over 30,000 senior living facilities dotting across the landscape of California, seniors in the Golden State have many options to consider. With a population of 6 million seniors – larger than almost anywhere else in the nation – the state is well equipped to address the needs of the aging population. This demographic is expected to grow rather than decline; the state estimates reaching a population of 9 million seniors by 2030, or twenty percent of the population.

However, as a state with a generally higher cost of living, California seniors can expect to pay slightly higher rates for care. However, there are ways to mitigate these costs. This guide explores the costs of care, financial resources, and local programs and agencies that help support seniors in need.

Covid-19 Rules and Restrictions for California Senior Living Facilities

The following rules and guidelines were obtained from The California Department of Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Social Services websites, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to nursing homes and assisted living homes .

This data has been most recently updated on 7/16/20, but keep in mind that COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving crisis, so all of the below information can change at any time. For additional questions and up-to-date information, you can contact your loved one’s senior living facility or your local Area Agency on Aging.

Visiting Loved Ones

Can I visit my relative in person if he/she wants emotional support from me?Yes, (conditions apply)
Can I visit my relative in person for end-of-life compassion care?Yes
Will my loved one be required to self-quarantine after I visit him or her?No
Do I need to wear PPE and/or a cloth mask if I do visit my relative in person?Yes
Are Hairdressers and other non-medical contractors still allowed in senior living facilities?Yes, at the facility’s discretion
Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?Yes
Are visitors being screened for elevated temperatures?Yes
Are visitors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?Yes

Outings and Group Activities

Are residents allowed to leave the facility for non-medical reasons?Yes
Are residents of senior living facilities who leave and return required to self-quarantine?NA
Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?Yes
Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?Yes, with social distancing (varies by facility)
Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?Yes, with modifications for safety

Safety Measures for Staff & Contractors 

Are staff members and contractors being screened for elevated temperatures?Yes
Are staff members and contractors being tested for Coronavirus?Yes
Are staff members and contractors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?Yes

Safety Measures for Residents 

Are staff members required to regularly screen residents for coronavirus symptoms?Yes
Are residents relied on to screen themselves and self-report potential coronavirus symptoms?No
Are staff members required to take residents’ temperatures?Yes
Are residents being tested for coronavirus?Yes

Paying for Senior Living in California

The Cost of Senior Living in California

While assisted living facilities are among the most popular options for care in California, there are other options available that seniors may choose to consider. According to Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey, adult day care is the most affordable option, but seniors and their families may need more comprehensive care such as in-home care, home health care or nursing home care, which are all about $800 – $4,200 more expensive than assisted living.

$5335

In-Home Care

$4500

Assisted Living

$5339

Home Health Care

$1668

Adult Day Care

$8760

Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in California

Seniors in California can expect to pay an average of $4,500 per month for assisted living care. This is slightly higher than the national average of $4,051. The cost of assisted living in nearby states varies greatly, however. While Oregon is priced similarly and Washington is around $1,000 more per month, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are all far more affordable.

$4500

California

$4051

United States

$5500

Washington

$4499

Oregon

$3750

Arizona

$3400

Nevada

$3400

Utah

The Cost of In-Home Care in California

Not everyone is eager to move into assisted living; some people prefer to age in place at home, but this comes at a cost in The Golden State. To live at home while receiving in-home care, such as housekeeping and errands, in California costs $5,335 per month, more than the national average of $4,290 and more than costs in neighboring states. Oregon comes nearest in cost with only a $187 difference whereas Nevada seniors pay around $1,200 less than California seniors. In both Utah and Arizona, the cost of in-home care is about $500 – $700 less than in California.

$5335

California

$4290

United States

$5148

Oregon

$4767

Arizona

$4290

Nevada

$4576

Utah

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in California

The cost of nursing home care in a semi-private room in California is $8,760, which is higher than the national monthly average of $7,513 as well as most nearby states. Oregon is the only neighbor with higher costs of care at $9,551. In Nevada, around-the-clock supervision and care costs $7,604 per month and Arizona and Utah have matching costs at $6,403.

$8760

California

$7513

United States

$9551

Oregon

$6493

Arizona

$7604

Nevada

$6403

Utah

Financial Assistance for Senior Living in California

Medi-Cal

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program, offering financial assistance for healthcare costs and long-term care expenses like senior living. Under Medi-Cal, seniors may have access to a specialized program for assisted  living support called the Assisted Living Waiver Program (AWLP). This program can provide additional financial resources for those eligible for nursing home care who choose an assisted living facility instead. The costs covered under this waiver program include things like assistance with personal care and medication administration.

Medi-Cal is an option for California seniors or those with a documented qualifying disability who meet income and asset requirements. Seniors must have an annual income below 138% of the current California poverty level. As of 2020, 138% of the poverty level is $17,609 for a household of one and $23,792 for a family of two. In addition, seniors cannot have qualifying assets of over $2,000. In some cases, exceptions can be made for those who have high medical expenses, like costs associated with ongoing cancer care.

Contact: California seniors can contact Medi-Cal by applying via mail, in person at a local County Social Services Office, or online using the web-based application. Phone support is available at 1-800-541-5555 from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.

VA Aid and Attendance Benefit

For veterans or their surviving spouses living in California, assistance for senior living programs may be available through the California VA. These benefits are in addition to a monthly pension, not in place of a pension. Eligibility for additional support under the VA benefits program requires the meeting one or more of the following conditions:

  • The aid of another person to perform normal tasks of everyday living, including feeding, bathing, dressing and attending to medical needs.
  • Disabilities that have resulted in the need to remain bedridden outside of any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment.
  • Currently a patient in a nursing home due to physical or mental challenges
  • Eyesight at a corrected acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes or limitations in concentric correction to five degrees or less of the visual field.

As of 2020, the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit can provide up to $1,788 per month for veterans, $1,149 per month for a surviving spouse of a veteran, or $2,120 per month for couples in need of assistance.

Contact: To apply, veteran seniors can contact their county office or call (800) 952-5626. Veterans can also send a completed VA Form 21-2680 to their regional Pension Management Center or nearest local VA office.

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in California

Note: All these rules typically apply to non-clinical senior living facilities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities with a clinical setting may have additional or slightly different requirements and regulations.

In order to best provide for those in need, senior living facilities in California must abide by state rules and policies. These are some of the laws and regulations seniors and the family members should know about.

Admissions Requirements

Due to the nature of senior living facilities, California seniors will need to meet certain abilities or expectations to ensure a safe and comfortable way of living. Assisted living facilities are permitted to admit seniors who:

  • Are able to administer their own medications or who may need assistance or reminders due to mental or physical limitations
  • May require medical treatment off-site or by a visiting professional
  • Have any mild form of dementia or who experience distress due to life changes or personal losses
  • Have cognitive impairments that are mild in nature

However, not all seniors will find senior living facilities to be the right fit. Anyone who requires 24 hour care, needs specific medical treatments like nasogastric tubes, has a serious infection, needs assistance in all daily tasks, or has severe mental conditions that could result in harm to other residents are not eligible for senior living care.

Medication Management

Only certified medical professionals are permitted to provide medications to residents in California. Staff members without training and licensing can only assist in self-administration in specific circumstances, including minor illness, hand tremors, or any non-cognitive issue that may prevent a resident from taking medication independently. Self-administration by non-certified staff does not include any measures that could stand in the way of a resident’s right to refuse treatment.

Memory Care Regulation

Staff who work with memory care facilities are required to have at least 12 hours of preliminary memory care training before hiring and eight hours of dementia care training annually, in addition to other training requirements in the state. This education must include hydration, skin care, therapeutic activities, behavioral indicators, daily care requirements, and common medical problems.

Memory care facilities must implement state-supported safety requirements to prevent resident injury. Family members must be notified when needs, behaviour, or condition changes.

Staffing Requirements

Assisted living facilities in California must have a certified administrator that manages the property; when this person is not present, someone must be appointed as an interim manager. Staffing in senior living facilities depends on size. Those with up to 100 residents must have one awake staff member at all times. Those with between 100 and 200 residents must have one on-call and one awake staff member. Above this size, an additional awake staff member is required for every 100 residents.

Caregivers working in a senior living facility must have knowledge of first aid and complete both 40 hours of onboarding training and 20 hours of continuing education training every year. Topics to be studied include personal care duties, resident rights, emergency training, community rules, sanitation, medication management, and how to identify potential serious medical challenges. An FBI background check is required for all employees and licensed workers within a facility.

California Senior Living Free Resources

California Agencies

California State Department of Aging

The California State Department of Aging is a state government agency dedicated to the well-being of seniors. With a wealth of information on everything from local programs and services to care options, seniors can connect with trusted resources online and by phone. A hotline is available to help seniors partner with the right resources, including sources of senior living financial support.

Anyone can contact the California State Department of Aging for assistance with questions and local services.

Contact: Call 1-800-510-2020 for access to the senior information line.

Area Agencies on Aging in California

Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are public or private non-profit agencies established by the state of California that offer extensive resources for seniors. These agencies generally work in a limited metro area or region to best provide seniors with relevant local information that can help with everything from Medicare enrollment to choosing a senior living facility. AAAs are free to use and can connect seniors with financial assistance programs where possible, depending on area availability.

Veteran Affairs Offices in California

For veterans and their spouses, the benefits offered by Veteran Affairs offices can be very valuable. The VA Aid and Attendance Benefit can be particularly useful for seniors seeking senior living resources. In California, there are numerous VA offices located throughout the state.

Social Security Offices in California

Social Security can be a valuable resource for seniors, providing an income source that can be used to cover expenses related to senior living. Seniors who need to contact local Social Security offices have access to many options around California.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in California?

On average, assisted living in California costs around $4,500 per month. However, this can vary regionally significantly. San Jose, for example, is far more expensive, averaging $5,853 per month, while Fresno costs just $3,861 per month.

Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in California?

Yes. For seniors who require financial assistance, there are options available in California. Medi-Cal, California, Medicaid program, can be especially beneficial; the Assisted Living Waiver Program offers a way for seniors who meet the eligibility criteria to save money on costs of care.

What are “Activities of Daily Living”?

Activities of Daily Living, or ADL, refers to normal tasks required to live on a day to day basis, including bathing, eating, cleaning, dressing, and using the bathroom. Helping seniors with ADL is a common service offered in assisted living communities.

What types of amenities are commonly in Assisted Living Communities?

Amenities can be a major part of nursing home care as the services offered can contribute significantly to qualify of life. In addition to caregiver support with activities of daily living and medication management, many assisted living programs offer options like social gatherings, spiritual programming, exercise activities, arts and crafts, and entertainment options.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

The primary difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes relates to the extent of medical care provided. While residents in an assisted living facility can live somewhat independently in their own apartments or suites, patients in a nursing home often require around-the-clock medical support or monitoring.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in California

Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top California cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state.

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