New Mexico Residential Alzheimer’s Care (Memory Care): Laws, Costs & Financial Help

Last Updated: February 04, 2021


New Mexico regulations say assisted living communities generally must provide room and board with assistance for activities of daily living (ADLs) and intermittent nursing care. For an assisted living community to serve residents with dementia in what’s commonly called “memory care,” the following criteria must be met:

– Added security in case of wandering
– Enhanced programming appropriate for residents with dementia
– Enhanced training for staff

Someone who needs full-time nursing care may not be admitted into assisted living in New Mexico.

Memory care homes must be inspected and approved by the state’s Department of Health, Division of Health Improvement. There are 40 memory care homes in New Mexico, varying in size from large, apartment-complex-style residences to smaller homes for 12 or fewer people called “board and care” homes. For free help finding memory care in New Mexico to meet your family’s needs and budget, click here.

 COVID-19 Vaccine in New Mexico Memory Care
In January, 2021, the coronavirus vaccine was distributed to every assisted living community in New Mexico. If you have a loved one in memory care, they should have received the immunization to help stop the pandemic. For more, click here.


How Much Does Memory Care Cost in New Mexico?

The average cost of assisted living with memory care per month in New Mexico in 2021 is $4,771, which breaks down to about $53,652 annually. The state is one of the more affordable in the country, below the national average for memory care of about $5,000 per month.
New Mexico’s most expensive city for memory care is Santa Fe, where the average cost is $5,668 per month and $68,016 annually. One of the least expensive places for memory care is Farmington, for $4,592 per month and $55,104 annually. Albuquerque, by far the state’s biggest city, costs the same as the state average, $4,771 monthly (this figure includes nearby Bernalillo and Rio Rancho). New Mexico’s second-biggest city, Las Cruces, runs about $5,022 per month and $60,264 annually. In rural areas outside New Mexico’s cities, the average cost is $4,627 per month and $55,524 annually. Unfortunately, as one enters the rural areas of NM, the assisted living and memory care options become fewer.

New Mexico Memory Care / Assisted Living Costs (updated Jan. 2021)
Region / City Monthly Cost Annual Cost
Statewide $4,771 $53,652
Albuquerque $4,771 $53,652
Las Cruces $5,022 $60,264
Santa Fe $5,668 $68,016
Farmington $4,592 $55,104

Even though New Mexico is not expensive compared to the rest of the country, people living near the borders to the east and west may be able to find even more affordable memory care in Arizona and Texas. Both states average a little less overall for memory care costs: Arizona, to the west, runs about $4,592 monthly and Texas, to the east and south, is $4,699 per month on average. El Paso, Texas, on the Mexican border south of New Mexico and less than an hour from Las Cruces, costs only about $3,480 per month and $41,760 annually.

  Did You Know? Families in New Mexico with a loved one with dementia can receive free assistance finding memory care homes that meet their needs and budgets. Get help here.


New Mexico Assisted Living Laws & Regulations

Admissions Process & Requirements

A resident evaluation is required within 15 days of moving into assisted living in New Mexico, to determine the level of care and assistance needed and whether the new home is a good fit. The evaluation is conducted by a medical professional who works for the home, and establishes a baseline of the person’s functional status, or what they are capable of physically and mentally. It must be updated at least every six months and include the following:

– Cognitive abilities
– Communication/hearing ability
– Vision
– Physical abilities and skeletal problems
– Psychological well-being
– Mood and behavior
– Incontinence
– Activity interest
– Medical history
– Nutritional status
– Dental status
– Skin conditions
– Medications used
– Level of assistance with ADLs required
– Special medical needs

The evaluation is an important step in developing a service plan, for staff at the home to understand your loved one and how to keep them safe, healthy, and stimulated. The cost of this evaluation might be included in the basic rate, or it may be part of a one-time “community fee” that covers up-front move-in costs. Community fees usually run between $500 and $2,000.
Before moving in, a resident must receive a written copy of the residence’s rules concerning residents’ rights and legal rights. These must include:

– Policies on smoking, alcohol, telephone, television, radio use, and pets
– Use and safekeeping of personal property
– Meal availability and times
– Use of common areas

Unlike many other states, New Mexico assisted living homes are not required by regulations to provide a written statement of all costs including optional services. If you’re considering memory care, ask for a written breakdown of all costs, including those considered extra or optional. File this document as defense against unexpected charges.

Regulations say assisted living with memory care is for residents who have been diagnosed with dementia, but this is not necessarily true. An official diagnosis can be difficult to make, because Alzheimer’s and related diseases including vascular, frontotemporal, and Lewy body dementia share symptoms that can vary and change over time. Whether your loved one needs the services provided in memory care is more important than having a diagnosis.

 COVID-19 Rules for Admissions
During the pandemic, new admissions in New Mexico assisted living homes must be quarantined and monitored for symptoms in an area separate from other residents for 14 days.


Facility / Residence

Resident units (bedrooms) must be at least 100 square feet for one person or 160 square feet for two people. Two people is the maximum number allowed in one resident unit in New Mexico assisted living homes. One toilet, sink, and bath or shower must be provided for every eight residents. Assisted living with memory care must have surveillance and security measures (including special locks) that are appropriate for people with dementia who may be prone to wander.

New Mexico regulations do not require that memory care homes be designed with architectural features that specifically benefit people with dementia. These might include clear sight lines to limit confusion and hallways that run circular so someone who is walking won’t encounter a dead end. Time outside has also been proven to help people with dementia, and in many states design elements like a secure outdoor space are required by law. Be sure to inspect a home carefully before moving in, with an eye on whether it will be comfortable for someone advancing through the stages of dementia.

 COVID-19 Rules for Visitation Process
During the pandemic, New Mexico assisted living homes are required to schedule and monitor all visits, which should take place in a designated outdoor area. Screening for symptoms, masks, and social distancing are required. Indoor visits may be allowed in end-of-life or “compassionate care” situations for residents having particular difficulties.


Staff & Training

There is no staffing ratio in New Mexico, but there must always be enough employees on duty to meet the needs of every resident. One person must be awake and on duty throughout the night.

Memory care staffers must have 12 hours of specifically dementia-related training per year. This is in addition to the training required for all assisted-living employees, including:

– 16 hours of supervised training prior to providing unsupervised care
– 12 hours of annual training on fire safety, first aid, safe food handling, resident rights, infection control, reporting requirements for abuse and neglect, safe transportation, and providing quality care based on residents’ needs

Administrators must be at least 21 years old, pass a criminal background check, have relevant experience within the assisted living industry, and be certified as an administrator by the state.

 COVID-19 Rules for Staff Training
The New Mexico Department of Health has developed a COVID-19 training program that all staff in assisted living must take, covering issues like putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE), infection control, and more.


Evictions & Discharges

Someone who requires 24-hour nursing care may not be admitted into assisted living in New Mexico, and if a resident’s medical status changes so that full-time nursing care becomes necessary, then an eviction will be required. (This rule does not apply to residents receiving hospice.) Someone who requires physical or chemical restraints, or presents a danger to themselves or others, may also be evicted.

Unlike other states, New Mexico does not specify a certain number of days’ notice before someone must leave. The usual warning time is 30 days, but it’s possible your loved one could be kicked out immediately. For this reason, it’s very important to be clear on the eviction policy before agreeing to move in. Can someone be evicted for late payments? Will assistance be provided to find a new home that’s more appropriate? Get the answer to every important question in writing, because unfair evictions are a big problem in assisted living throughout the country, and you need to be prepared. If you receive an eviction notice and need to know next steps, click here.


Financial Assistance for Residential Alzheimer’s Memory Care

New Mexico Medicaid’s Centennial Care Community Benefit

Assisted living costs are among the benefits of the Community Benefits program under New Mexico’s Medicaid program (called “New Mexico Centennial”). Participants’ options are Agency-Based Community Benefit (ABCB), in which the state chooses care providers, and Self-Directed Community Benefit (SDCB) care, where the participant chooses. Costs associated with activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are covered, in addition to behavior therapy, community transition services to move from a nursing home into assisted living, and nutritional counseling. Recipients must be Medicaid-eligible, including a monthly income limit under $2,349 for a single adult (in 2020). Take a quick, easy and free Medicaid eligibility test here.


Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans suffer from a high rate of illnesses including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that make them statistically more likely to develop dementia. Relevant in all states including New Mexico is the VA’s Aid & Attendance pension program for veterans and surviving spouses, which is an amount of money added to veterans’ and survivors’ basic pensions. A&A is also called the Enhanced Monthly Income Benefit or the Income Improvement Pension. Applicants must be at least 65 years old (or disabled) and require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like eating, bathing, and mobility. The cash assistance from these pensions can be used as the recipient wishes, meaning it can go toward the cost of memory care. In addition, the cost of residential care can be deducted from one’s income, effectively reducing the amount of calculable income used to determine the benefit amount. The latest (2021) maximum amount a veteran can receive through A&A is $27,540 per year, and surviving spouses can receive as much as $14,928. Learn more here.

  Did You Know? As few as one out of every seven New Mexican veterans who are eligible for Aid & Attendance money have applied to receive it.

There are also two veterans’ homes in New Mexico, which are residential care facilities that provide long-term care for veterans. They are the Fort Bayard State Veterans Home in Santa Clara (southwestern NM near Silver City) and the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences (north of Las Cruces). In addition to nursing home care, assisted living and memory care are provided. Payment is made directly from the VA to the facility. State veterans’ homes are typically reserved for veterans whose need for care stems at least 70 percent from their military service. Because there is often a waiting list, contact the homes before visiting to see if your loved one is eligible to live there. Click here for Fort Bayard and here for NMSVH in T or C.


Other Options

Other ways to help pay for memory care include tax credits and deductions like the Credit for the Elderly and the Disabled, or the Child and Dependent Care Credit (if you can claim your elderly loved one as a dependent). Remember also that medical and dental expenses can be deducted, and that may include some assisted living costs.

A reverse mortgage may be a good option for a married person moving into memory care, if their spouse continues to live in the home. Should the spouse move from their home, the reverse mortgage would become due.

Elder care loans are for families to cover initial costs of moving into memory care, if you need a little help at first but can afford costs after the initial payments. For example, if one is waiting for a VA pension to be approved or waiting to sell a home.

 Did You Know? About 13% of people over 65 in New Mexico have Alzheimer’s disease, one of the highest rates in the country. The number of people there with Alzheimer’s is expected to grow from 43,000 in 2020 to 53,000 by 2025.