Assisted Living in California

Having worked with several families already this year, that need to find care for a loved one or themselves, I found having a resource of information on this necessary topic invaluable when making these decisions becomes paramount.
California is consistently touted as one of the best place in the world weather-wise. It is consistently sunny in much of the state. Additionally, there is no tax on groceries nor prescription medications – two of the largest expenditures seniors typically have. For this and other reasons, it’s no surprise that many seniors have this state at the top of their list of places for retirement and senior living. California’s elderly population is set to grow substantially, and many of these seniors lived on fixed, limited incomes and need advice in qualifying for and locating affordable housing.

How to Pay for Assisted Living in California

Determining how to finance assisted living often starts with the question, “What’s the cost?” In today’s economy, where inflation plays a significant role, having current data is crucial for senior living financial planning. has gathered cost information from its expansive network of over 75,000 senior living providers. This data offers a glimpse into the average expenses for assisted living in California and 201 additional cities within California.

How Inflation Has Impacted the Cost of Assisted Living in California

Inflation had a major impact on the rising costs of assisted living in recent years. Monthly assisted living costs in California rose 7% between 2022 and 2023, from $4,625 to $4,946, while costs increased 10% nationwide. Among California’s neighbors, only Nevada saw lower inflation with a 4% increase; the cost of assisted living rose by 10% in Arizona, 12% in Utah and a whopping 20% in Oregon.

The trend is expected to continue into 2024 with California’s assisted living prices rising 6% from $4,946 to $5,221, and Arizona’s swelling by 12%. These projections can inform more accurate senior care budgets.

Location 2022 Cost (Historical) 2023 Cost (Current) 2024 Cost (Estimated)
California $4,625 $4,946 $5,221
U.S. Average $4,070 $4,459 $4,802
Arizona $4,008 $4,420 $4,962
Utah $3,690 $4,129 $4,200
Nevada $3,586 $3,716 $3,957
Oregon $4,681 $5,580 $5,942

Assisted Living Costs in California’s Top Cities

Assisted living costs vary widely between major cities in California. The average price of assisted living is $7,306 in San Jose, nearly double the Palm Spring’s rate of $3,700. Other cities stay closer to the state average of $4,946 per month, with Sacramento and San Diego offering monthly rates of $5,472 and $4,479, respectively. When budgeting for senior care, it is vital to consider different options from a wide array of cities in the state.

Average Monthly CostsCity ComparisonsAverage Cost$0.00$2,000.00$4,000.00$6,000.00$8,000.00CaliforniaSacramentoSan DiegoSan JosePalm SpringsCity

The Cost of Other Types of Senior Living

Budgeting for senior care options in California demands an understanding of the various care types available. Best for self-sufficient seniors who don’t require intensive care, independent living is the most affordable option at $3,556 per month. Memory care requires trained caregivers and specialized programming, costing $5,866 on average. At $4,946, assisted living helps seniors maintain independence while having access to care and lifestyle support. Personal preferences and medical requirements deserve consideration when planning senior living.

Average Monthly CostsCare Cost Comparison In CaliforniaAverage Costs$0.00$2,000.00$4,000.00$6,000.00Assisted LivingMemory CareIndependent LivingCare Type

Financial Assistance for Assisted Living in California

The Assisted Living Waiver

Medi-Cal is California’s combined federal and state program designed to help pay for medical care for public assistance recipients and other low-income persons. Medi-Cal does not cover the full cost of assisted living directly, but the program does offer a waiver to cover long-term care services for seniors who are nursing-home eligible, but could have their health and personal needs met in an assisted living facility. Seniors must also meet certain financial requirements in order to be eligible for the Assisted Living Waiver.

A Medi-Cal social worker can draft a personalized care plan for you or your loved one to outline the appropriate services your or they will need. Below is a list of all the available services and supports included in the scope of the waiver:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living, including bathing, grooming and toileting
  • Assistance with logistical activities of daily living, including medication administration and transportation
  • Health-related services, including skilled nursing care, if needed
  • Recreational and social activities
  • Prepared meals
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • Nursing home transition care, if needed

Who is Eligible?

Seniors older than 65 years of age with an income 138% of the poverty level ($16,395 for an individual and $22,108 for a couple) can receive Medi-Cal benefits. To qualify for the Assisted Living Waiver under Medi-Cal, California residents must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have Medi-Cal eligibility with zero share of cost;
  • Have health and personal care needs that are the equivalent of the needs of Medi-Cal-funded residents living and receiving care in nursing facilities;
  • Willing and able to safely live in an assisted living setting as an alternative to a nursing facility.

Share of cost is essentially an arrangement for seniors whose income is too high to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits, but too low to afford their health care expenses. Share of cost requires people to spend a certain amount of their income on health care before Medi-Cal provides coverage. As noted, Californians approved for Medi-Cal through the share of cost arrangement are not eligible for the Assisted Living Waiver.

Of note, not all counties in California have assisted living settings covered under the waiver. To receive covered services under the waiver, seniors must be willing to live in one of the following counties:

  • Alameda
  • Contra Costa
  • Fresno
  • Kern
  • Los Angeles
  • Orange
  • Riverside
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Joaquin
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Clara
  • Sonoma

How to Apply

To apply for Medi-Cal coverage and to discuss the Assisted Living Waiver, you will need to contact your local county office. Additionally, Area Agencies on Aging are a good place to start the application process. Your local Agency may be able to help you craft a more comprehensive and detailed picture of your retirement.

More Ways to Finance Assisted Living

Some additional ways to finance assisted living costs include:

  • Veterans Benefits: Veterans can take advantage of several different pension programs to help cover the cost of assisted living. For more information, see the article on
  • Life Insurance Policies: Even if a spouse or loved one hasn’t died, certain types of life insurance policies can be used to pay for assisted living. More information is available at
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance policy that pays for long-term care when it becomes necessary, including the cost of assisted living. For more information on the benefits and drawbacks of this financing method, visit
  • Reverse Mortgages: Reverse mortgages allow seniors to access the equity from a home that they own, and these funds can be used to pay for assisted living. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a federally insured reverse mortgage program.
In A Nutshell . . .
Assisted living and long term care are often enable needs in the many chapters of life.
Reach out for more resources or specific needs you may have so we can get you the clarity you need.