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Guide to Senior Living in Delaware

A coastal mid-Atlantic state with a population of just under 1 million, Delaware is one of the smallest U.S. states by both size and number of residents. In spite of its small size, senior citizens comprise a large portion of the state — around 19%. This number is only expected to grow; by 2030, 300,000 adults in Delaware are expected to be over age 60 versus about 250,000 today. This is an increase of 16%, suggesting a need for additional senior resources in the year to come.

However, Delaware’s diminutive presence doesn’t mean that it’s a particularly affordable state to call home. For example, seniors in Delaware can expect to spend $6,035 per month on assisted living facilities, nearly $2,000 higher than the national average of $4,051. This guide serves as an overview of the state of assisted living in Delaware, including average costs of care, laws surrounding assisted living facilities and financial resources that can help seniors afford a wonderful place to call home.

The Cost of Senior Living in Delaware

Note: There currently isn’t authoritative data on the average cost of Independent Living Facilities nationwide, so instead, we use the cost of Assisted Living to estimate it. Since the cost of Independent Living is typically 30-40% lower than the cost of Assisted Living, the numbers below were calculated by subtracting 35% from the cost of Assisted Living.

Note: Memory care is typically provided in communities licensed as assisted living facilities, and in general, costs 20-30% more than standard assisted living services. No authoritative cost data is available for this type of care, so we estimated memory care rates by adding 25% to assisted living fees in the Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey.

Older residents of Delaware have various senior living options from which to choose. Seniors who don’t need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) or skilled nursing care can join an independent living community where they can pursue their interests and enjoy an active lifestyle. If seniors need assistance with two or three ADLs, residing in an assisted living facility offers security and help. A senior with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease can stay in an assisted living facility with a special memory care unit. These units feature 24/7 supervision, staff trained to deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and special therapies and activities. Any senior who requires help with several ADLs and skilled nursing care should live in a nursing care facility.

Looking at the figures generated by the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2021, independent living in Delaware will cost $3,987 a month, while assisted living averages $5,995 per month. Memory care costs approximately $1,500 more than assisted living at $7,494. Seniors who need a semiprivate room in a nursing care facility will pay $12,273 a month.


Independent living


Assisted living


Memory care


Nursing care (semiprivate room)

The Cost of Assisted Living in Delaware

According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2021, Delaware’s monthly average cost for assisted living of $5,995 is neither the highest nor the lowest in the area. However, it is almost $1,500 a month more expensive than the national average of $4,500. Virginia’s average cost is $5,250 a month. Maryland, Delaware’s other close neighbor, costs $4,900 a month. New Jersey is about $500 a month more expensive at $6,495. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is approximately $1,800 a month less costly at $4,100.




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New Jersey



The Cost of Nursing Care in Delaware

Delaware has the highest nursing costs among neighboring states at $12,273 per month, approximately $4,400 a month more expensive than the national average of $7,908. Virginia is about $4,000 a month less costly at $8,213. Maryland costs $10,342 a month, while Pennsylvania is a couple of hundred dollars a month more expensive than Maryland, averaging $10,403. Northern neighbor New Jersey averages $11,254, roughly $1,000 a month cheaper.




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New Jersey



Can You Use Medicaid to Pay for Senior Living in Delaware?

You can use Medicaid to pay for several forms of senior living in Delaware.

Medicaid in Delaware will pay eligible seniors for some of the costs of assisted living and memory care and all the costs of nursing care. The Diamond State Health Plan Plus (DSHPP) is a managed long-term care entitlement program covering all eligible seniors.

Independent living is the one form of senior living that receives no financial aid from Medicaid. Seniors who reside in independent living communities need no assistance with ADLs nor require skilled nursing care.

Medicaid Coverage LevelType of Medicaid CoverageEntitlement?* 
Assisted LivingPartialManaged careYes
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CarePartialManaged careYes
Nursing Home CareFullManaged CareYes

Medicaid’s Coverage of Assisted Living and Memory Care in Delaware

Seniors who meet financial and medical limits can receive Medicaid funding, whether for assisted living or memory care.

Diamond State Health Plan Plus (DSHPP)

DHSPP is a long-term care Medicaid managed care approach to delivering health care services to eligible seniors for assisted living or memory care. It’s an entitlement program that will cover some costs for residents in long-term care facilities in Delaware. Seniors who qualify for the program can choose a managed care organization or be assigned one.

Some of the services covered by DHSPP include:

  • Care management services
  • Assisted living care, including assistance with ADLs
  • Respite care
  • Specialized durable medical equipment
  • Self-directed attendant care service
  • All regular Medicaid health care services

The plan will not pay for room and board in an assisted living facility or adult foster care home.

Medicaid Coverage of Nursing Home Care in Delaware

The same managed care plan that covers assisted living and memory care in Delaware also covers nursing care: the Diamond State Health Plan Plus. The significant difference is that the plan will pay for room and board for an individual eligible for nursing care.

DSHPP also provides up to $2,500 for location services involving a transition to a nursing care facility or between nursing care facilities.

You can apply for DSHPP at DelawareASSIST. Call (800) 372-2022 or (302) 255-9500 to have an application mailed to you.

Eligibility for Medicaid in Delaware

To be eligible for DSHPP, a senior must already be a member of Medicaid, need a nursing home level of care, have no alternative medical care and meet financial guidelines.

Delaware is an income cap state. Regardless of the kind of senior living option, an individual’s income can be no higher than the state’s official limit when applying. They can’t spend down money on their care.

An individual cannot earn more than 250% of the Supplemental Security Income Standard, which amounts to $2102.50 per month or $25,230 per year. In a two-person household where both people are applying, the monthly income limit is $4,205 or $50,460 per year.

An individual can have no more than $2,000 in assets. In a two-person household where both individuals are applying, the asset limit is $3,000. In a two-person home where only one person is applying, the non-applicant can have assets of $137,400.

2022 Delaware Medicaid Income Limits 

 Income limits*Asset limits
Single Applicant$25,230$2,000
Two-Person Household(Only One Person Applying)$25,230 for applicant$2000 for applicant$137,400 for non-applicant
Two-Person Household
(Both People Applying)

 *Per Year

Other conditions that apply to eligibility for DSHPP include:

  • You must be a resident of the state of Delaware
  • You must be a US citizen, a permanent resident or a legal alien
  • You must be at least 65 years of age or
  • You must be blind or disabled

Applying for Medicaid in Delaware

Senior Delaware residents can apply for Medicaid or DSHPP at the DelawareASSIST website. You can call the Customer Relations Unit at (866)-843-7212 for assistance when applying. Or you can call (800) 372-2022 or (302) 255-9500 to have an application mailed to you. After you have finished the application, you can drop it off at your local office of the Division of Social Services. If you wish to apply in person, visit your local Division of Social Services office.

Before You Apply        

When you fill out the Medicaid/DSHPP form, you need to have some information prepared:

  • The names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, ethnicity and citizenship of every individual in your household
  • Your health insurance cards, including Medicaid, if you have any
  • Your most recent tax return
  • Education record of everyone in your house
  • The employment history of everyone in your house
  • Documentation of all other forms of income, including Social Security, Workers Compensation or retirement accounts
  • List of bank accounts, trust funds and cash on hand
  • Medical expenses
  • Household expenses

How to Get Help

It can be daunting applying for Medicaid as the amount of information requested can seem overwhelming. Organizations exist in Delaware to help seniors, caregivers or families prepare Medicaid applications.

 ContactWhat You Should Know
Division of Social Services(302) 498-5500When you are preparing an application, you can call your local office of the Division of Social Services, and a staff member will assist you. You can also visit your local office and have a staff member help you fill out your application.
Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance(302) 255-9500Medicaid and Medical Assistance can answer your questions about who is eligible for Medicaid in Delaware, how to apply for Medicaid, and the available benefits.
American Council on AgingContact FormThe American Council on Aging publishes a yearly update on the Medicaid income and asset limits for every state, including Delaware. You could also find information on eligibility, how to apply and what benefits are available.

Can You Use Medicare to Pay for Senior Living in Delaware?

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living, independent living, or memory care. Unlike nursing homes, these care types are not considered to be “clinical settings” and so are not eligible for Medicare coverage. That being said, those who live in these communities can still use Medicare to cover the cost of approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc.

When it comes to nursing home care, it gets much more complicated. Medicare does provide limited coverage for a qualified stay in a nursing home,but there are strict rules and requirements of which you should be aware. This benefit is available to seniors who have been hospitalized for at least three days, excluding the date of discharge.

Once you’ve met the hospitalization requirement, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility (per benefit period). While the first 20 days are covered in full, there is a daily coinsurance rate that must be paid starting on day 21. After day 100, seniors are responsible for the entire cost.

Medicare CoverageMedicare Coverage DurationCoinsurance Requirement?
Assisted LivingNoneN/AN/A
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CareNoneN/AN/A
Nursing Home CareLimited100 Days Per Benefit PeriodYes – After 20 Days

What Nursing Home Care Services Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers a number of specific services, including:

  • Meals
  • A semiprivate room
  • Medications
  • Skilled nursing services
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Audiologist care
  • Medical supplies
  • Medical social services
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Ambulance transportation

What Nursing Home Care Services Aren’t Covered by Medicare?

Medicare does not cover long-term custodial care that addresses seniors’ day-to-day needs. This includes help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and using medical equipment.

Medicaid Support and Resources in Delaware

If this is your first time applying for Medicare, or if you want to know how to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan or between Medicare Advantage Plans, several organizations in Delaware can provide you with information and assistance.

ResourceContactWhat You Should Know
Delaware Medicare Assistance Bureau(800) 336-9500 or (302) 674-736Delaware’s version of other states’ Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), the Bureau provides free, unbiased and confidential counseling to seniors, families or caregivers on all questions regarding Medicare. They can provide you with details on Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, Long-Term Care, Part D Prescription Drug Plans and Medigap. Counselors can make sure you know when you can switch between plans or add new elements to your plan. They can also advise you on programs that offer lower prices on prescription drugs and provide counseling on billing issues and financial assistance for low-income beneficiaries. 
Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP)(800) 223-9074The SMP provides public information designed to get Medicare beneficiaries to pay more attention to their Medicare notices and ask questions if they don’t think things are correct. The program also trains volunteers to help Medicare recipients spot errors, fraud, abuse and waste in Medicare and to report them.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program(800) 223-9074Best known as advocates for seniors in disputes with long-term care facilities, long-term care ombudsmen can also act as impartial third parties to advise seniors in LTC’s facilities on Medicare issues. This includes billing issues and adverse decisions on Medicare coverage or prescription drugs. Ombudsmen can also help seniors appeal these decisions and alert them to Medicare fraud and abuse.

Are There Other Financial Assistance Options for Senior Living in Delaware?

Depending on your unique situation, there may be other financial assistance options to partially or fully cover the cost of senior living in Delaware. Below, we cover some of the common ways that seniors can make senior living options such as assisted living or memory care more affordable.

How to Get StartedWhat You Should Know
Aid and AttendanceApply online at you are a veteran and you receive a VA pension, you may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit. This benefit takes the form of a monthly cash allowance that you receive in addition to your standard pension. This benefit is used by veterans who need long-term care services, including care received at an assisted living facility.
Reverse MortgagesResearch and learn about the different types at you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to access some of the equity in your home. Like traditional loans, reverse mortgages do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months, so seniors should carefully weigh this option alongside other financing methods.
Long-Term Care (LTC) InsuranceLearn about how to receive LTC insurance benefits at those who currently need assisted living will typically not be eligible, if you purchased an LTC insurance policy in the past, you may be able to use it to help pay for assisted living. While most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, you still need to check the specific terms of your policy.

Free Senior Living Resources for Seniors in Delaware

Many seniors in Delaware live on a budget. Fortunately, several free resources are available for seniors in the state that can help with legal matters, discounts on prescription drugs, veterans’ benefits and many other community resources.

 ContactWhat You Should Know
Elder Law Program(302) 575-0666The Elder Law Program will assist any resident of Delaware who is over 60 years of age. There are no financial eligibility requirements. The problems handled by the Elder Law Program include powers of attorney, advanced health care directives (previously known as living wills), debt collection, home repair cases, evictions and benefits issues, including Medicaid and Social Security. To apply for help, visit the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. office nearest you or call the office in your county. Elder Law staff cannot help with regular wills.
Office of Veteran Services(302) 739-2792The Office Of Veteran Services can provide information on various benefits for senior veterans including health care, employment, mental health care and housing. The office operates one veterans’ home in the state that provides assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care. Eligibility for entrance includes being honorably discharged, living in Delaware for the past three years and needing a nursing home level of care.
Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center (ARDC)(800) 223-9074The center provides a plethora of information and resources to senior residents of the state who have a disability. The ARDC office includes a call center operated by staff ready to answer your questions and options counselors who can provide you with personalized service.
Delaware Valley Alzheimer’s Association(800) 272-3900The Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association provides information and resources for seniors with dementia-related diseases, their families or caregivers. The site offers information on detecting the different stages of dementia, the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia and treatment options. Caregivers will find links to respite care and information on how to pay for it. The Association also holds regular events to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
Delaware Prescription Assistance Plan (DPAP)(844) 245-9580 and press D or stay on the line until a staff member answers your callThe DPAP wants to help seniors aged at least 65 or those who are  disabled pay for prescription medications when they can’t afford the total cost. The state of Delaware designed the program to assist eligible seniors and disabled whose income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and have no prescription insurance other than Medicare Part D. The program will also assist seniors who pay more than 40% of their income for prescription drugs.

COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions for Delaware Senior Living Facilities

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including and These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/3/2022, 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.

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 (Conditions Apply)
Are Hairdressers and other non-medical contractors still allowed in senior living facilities?Yes
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?No (Conditions Apply)
Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?No
Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?Yes
Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?Yes

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 (Conditions Apply)
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 (Conditions Apply)

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Delaware

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.

Senior living facilities play an important role in senior care in Delaware. As such, the programs must adhere to stringent rules and regulations to ensure seniors are as safe and healthy as possible. These are some of the key policies governing senior living in Delaware.

Scope of Care

ALFs in Delaware are intended to provide living arrangements to seniors in a medically stable condition who don’t require skilled nursing services. Facilities must to:

  • Ensure resident service agreements are properly implemented
  • Provide all necessary personal services, including all activities of daily living
  • Facilitate health care and social services as needed
  • Provide access to leisure activities and social interaction opportunities

Admission Policy

Senior living facilities aren’t permitted to admit individuals who require care for more serious medical conditions. Accordingly, admission is restricted to those who don’t meet any of the following criteria:

  • Consistent nursing care
  • Ongoing monitoring, testing or adjustment of treatments and medications
  • Required monitoring of chronic medical conditions that can’t be stabilized through normal treatments
  • Bedridden for two weeks or more
  • Stage III or IV skin ulcers
  • Required support from a ventilator or an intravenous or central line
  • Have an unstable tracheotomy or PEG tube

Medication Management

ALFs in Delaware must comply with the Nurse Practice Act, which states that medications and treatments can only be provided by unlicensed personnel who are trained under Board of Nursing-approved Limited Lay Administration of Medications (LLAM) Core Curriculum and ALF Specific Courses. Each facility needs to create medication policies and procedures related to storing and administering medication, which must be reviewed quarterly by a pharmacist.

Staffing Requirements

All ALFs must have a director who oversees the facility, and facilities with more than 25 beds must have a full-time administrator. All facilities must have a licensed RN serving as a Director of Nursing. Resident assistants must be at least 18 years old. ALFs need to have at least one awake staff member who is qualified to administer medication available at all times. This person must also know basic first aid. There are no other required staffing ratios in Delaware.

Staff members working in ALFs must receive a comprehensive orientation that goes over fire and safety policies, infection control, food safety, health management and how to meet psycho-social needs of residents. Twelve hours of continuing education is required annually. CE programs must be approved by the Board of Nursing Home Examiners.

Background checks and drug tests aren’t required by law in Delaware but may be the policy of specific facilities.

Memory Care Regulation

Any ALFs that serve people with dementia must have specialized policies and procedures related to memory care that abide by all state and local legal regulations. These policies must be disclosed as requested. Any staff members working in this area of a facility must be certified and licensed in memory care responsibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Delaware?

Assisted living in Delaware averages $6,035 per month, one of the highest amounts in the country. As one of the smallest states in the United States without major metro areas, the amount seniors can expect to pay for assisted living is consistent across the state.

Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in Delaware?

Yes, there are financial assistance programs seniors can use to help afford the cost assisted living in Delaware. The Delaware Diamond State Health Plan Plus, or DSHP+, is Delaware’s Medicaid program and offers coverage for numerous services that fall under the purview of assisted living. Delaware residents who served in the military can also take advantage of the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit.

What are Activities of Daily Living?

Activities of Daily Living, also known as ADLs, are tasks that are needed to live a normal life. ADLs include things like getting dressed, using the bathroom, bathing, cooking, eating and light housework. Requiring assistance with ADLs is a primary reason many seniors choose to live in an assisted living facility.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

The primary difference between assisted living and nursing homes relates to the level of medical care required. Assisted living programs are generally restricted to basic first aid and medication management. Seniors living with more serious medical problems, like chronic conditions, nasogastric tubes or ongoing infections, are better suited for nursing home care.

Who should consider assisted living?

Assisted living is a good fit for seniors who need help with ADLs but don’t want to remain in their own homes. Those who want to retain some independence while still ensuring they get the help they need may find assisted living the best fit for senior living.

Learn More About Senior Living in Delaware

For more information about specific types of senior living in Delaware read our Guide to Assisted Living and Independent Living.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Delaware

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

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