Moving Parents Into Assisted Living: Tips and Suggestions

Updated on January 10, 2019
Residents of assisted living facilities can get help with all sorts of things.
Residents of assisted living facilities can get help with all sorts of things. | Source

Moving a parent or a loved one into a retirement or assisted living facility is one of the toughest things that a person has to do. It is stressful for everyone involved, and takes a lot of time and energy.

Having recently helped my parents with this transition, I have become familiar with the many steps involved, and have come up with a list of tips to help make it easier for everyone.

One of the most important things to remember is that every situation is different. Keep a line of communication open between the facility, your loved one and yourself.

Also remember that every facility has different regulations and amenities. Know what they are.

I have divided the tips into three sections. They are based on my personal experience and are not meant to be, and should not be, used as legal advice:

  • Tips for the person who is moving
  • Tips for family members
  • Packing tips

I hope they help make the transition a little easier for you and your loved one.

Tips for the person who is moving

Always keep in mind that this is a trying time for your loved one.

Not only is the person leaving their beloved home, one that they may have lived in for most of their adult life, they are usually leaving behind family, friends and even pets.

The person is also changing their way of life and are aware that this will, in most cases, be the last home that they will live in.

To make this transition as easy as possible for your loved one, keep these tips in mind.

Remember that these tips may not apply to everyone, but if your family member is still capable of certain things, then they may help.

If able, your loved one should be included in the planning of the move, including tours of the facilities and meetings with staff.
Ask them what they want to take with them to their new home and try to include as many things that they want as possible.
Go through keepsakes together and choose some that can be kept.
If able, let them help pack and unpack boxes and organize their new space. Let them decide where to put their items.
Many retirement facilities have fun activities for your loved ones.
Many retirement facilities have fun activities for your loved ones. | Source

Tips for family members

It is very easy to forget the family of the patient during the moving process. We are busy making living arrangements. We are also dealing with a loved one who may no longer be able to take care of themselves.

There are usually physical and emotional demands being placed upon us, and we are dealing with legal and financial issues as well.

This time is just as stressful on the family as it is on the patient, only in different ways.

Make the move special by:

  • Having a grandchild draw a pretty picture for their wall.
  • Making a scrapbook or photo album with special photos.
  • Bringing them a gift basket with their favorite toiletries.
  • Giving them one or two new outfits.
  • Giving them a pretty plant for their new home.
  • Leaving them a care package with some of their favorite baked goodies.

Have all paperwork up to date and in order
The amount of paperwork that you will be signing and reviewing can be overwhelming. Having all of the patients' financial and legal papers organized will help the process go smoothly.
Keep organized
There may be all sorts of appointments at the beginning of a move. Keeping a calendar will help you keep organized. Even if your loved one is able to understand everything, you want to attend these appointments with them to help them keep their affairs in order.
Take a break
Having visited 3 different hospitals over a one month period made me realize that I needed a break. Take a day to get caught up on your own things.
Get help from other family members
Even if family is out of town, they may be able to come up for a weekend to help with packing or moral support.
Let family and friends know how to get in touch with the person
People will appreciate staying in touch with friends and receiving cards.
Get to know facility staff
Knowing who to call is a great help.
Reassure yourself
Tough at times, just remember that you are doing the best thing for your loved one.
Give your loved one time
Don't rush them when sorting and packing. If you feel they are getting stressed, step back and take a break.

Basic items to pack

Basic Toiletries
Clothes and outerwear
Reading materials
Special mementos
Favorite Snacks
Small amount of cash
Sheets and towels
Pens and paper
Notecards and stamps
Favorite jewelry items (not too valuable)
Glasses and sunglasses
A few plates, cups and utensils
Craft supplies

Packing tips

What your loved one takes with them depends on a number of things.

  • Size of the apartment/room they are moving to
  • Amenities of the apartment/room, i.e. does it have a kitchen or private bathroom
  • Abilities of your loved one
  • Roommate situation, if applicable
  • Rules of the retirement facility

Unless it is an emergency admittance, chances are good that you have seen the room that your parent will be moving to. This will give you a good idea of types and numbers of things you'll be able to pack.

Remember that every person moving to an assisted living facility has different abilities and ailments. In addition, each location has different rules, regulations and facilities.

Try to keep all of these things in mind when packing for the move.

Additional Information
Don't take too much
Things can always be brought to the facility at a later date.
Check to make sure all of the items you are bringing are allowed.
Make a list of what you are taking
A list can be checked to see if something was forgotten.
Most facilities will provide people with a basic checklist to help you get started.
Leave pricey valuables at home
Unfortunately things do get taken from time to time, even at the most reputable facilities.
As a general rule this won't apply to people moving into private independent living communities.
Visit your loved ones as often as you can!  It will make their day!
Visit your loved ones as often as you can! It will make their day! | Source

Once they are moved in

Once your family member is settled into their new home, you may think that your role is finished. It is not. The first months can be extremely difficult. New residents, along with family still at home, need to adjust to the new living arrangements.

  • First and foremost, don't stop visiting. Your loved one may be frightened, lonely and sad. They will appreciate your visits.
  • If appropriate, bring youngsters to visit. A smile from a child can brighten anyone's day and other residents will appreciate it as well.
  • If allowed, bring their pet to visit them. Many facilities have communal or outdoor areas where pets can visit.
  • If they are able, take them outside to restaurants or take them back home. It is important for them to keep connected with the outside world.

Moving into a retirement or assisted living facility is extremely difficult for everyone. You and your loved one will probably experience a range of emotions, from relief to sadness. There will be times when you may be frightened or even angry.

In the long run, you can rest assured that you are doing the best thing you can for your loved one.

© 2013 Claudia Mitchell


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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      4 years ago

      Your comments mean a lot to me Peg. It is such a traumatic time with so many emotions so I think it's important to try and make it as easy as possible for everyone. I hope the transition with your family member is going well.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      We hear so much of the bad things that happen in hospitals and nursing homes that it is important to remember there are many good places with caring staff and a nurturing environment. I've recently (this week) experienced this incredibly stressful and sad, yet relieving, move for family members. Your suggestions are incredibly important and valuable to loved ones who are going through the most difficult transition of their lives and to those who are assisting in the decision.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks poetryman - There is nothing worse in a retirement community than having nothing for the residents to do.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      5 years ago

      making sure there are fun activities is a keeper of an idea

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much rajan. Visits by family are so important, even if it is difficult to do so. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      GTF, you provide some very interesting points and tips. I've worked for some time at an assisted living facility and I've seen the inmates really looking forward to the visits by their family members and being overjoyed being taken for a day's outing.

      Lovely hub. Voted up and useful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Many thanks teaches. It has been such a long process and we tend to try to do everything on our own so writing this was a helpful part of my healing. Thanks very much for commenting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      europewalker - I am finding out that there are many people who have been through this experience. I guess we have all had to learn how to handle it. Thanks so much for reading and your kind comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Hi AliciaC - I appreciate your well wishes and your nice comments. I'm happy that people are finding this hub helpful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much FlourishAnyway. It's wonderful to hear that your great grandmother had such a positive experience. That makes it so much easier for everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thank you for your kind comments and all of your support Daisy. I appreciate and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I remember when we had to make this decision for my dad. Your tips would have helped to make it a better move for all of us. Wonderful suggestions and so glad your experience is helping others in this decision.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thank you very much pinto2011. I hope the article is helpful to people.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      You are so right about taking care of ourselves. We forget about that so easily and often and then it catches up to us it not good ways. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Sunshine!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      I appreciate it rebeccamealy. I hope it will help some people. Thanks for commenting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much Patsybell. If you are going to have to go through this process at some time with a loved one, I hope it goes as smoothly as it can. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind comments Mary. I find writing helps me get my thoughts in order so I have been writing about this experience all along.

    • europewalker profile image


      5 years ago

      Very helpful information. I have been through that experience and it is extremely hard on everyone. Voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very useful hub that will help people during an extremely difficult time, Glimmer Twin. I hope that things go as well as possible in your own family's situation.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      What a thoughtful, well structured hub, although it certainly is a sad topic to think about. I espcially liked the sidebar on how to make the move special. In addition to reducing homesickness, photos of loved ones can really help new residents get acquainted with others because they provide an easy topic of conversation.

      My great grandmother found a brand new social life in her retirement home, having previously been fairly isolated in her home. She did crafts, was in their choir, participated in dances and outings (even in her wheelchair), and took special pride in being crowned the Queen of her nursing home. She even received a trophy which I still have almost 20 years after her passing, and she had her photo placed in the local paper with a write-up on her victory.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      The recent transitions within your own family can't have been easy. The knowledge you gained and the information you've shared in your article will help many people.

    • pinto2011 profile image


      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nicely thought and carefully planned articles. I think this is going to solve and provide solutions to so many

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Hi Glimmer, I hope your parents are settling in well and they are content. I hope you are doing well. I understand it's been a rough time for you. As a caregiver you need to remember to take care of yourself also. Thanks for sharing your journey so that others could learn from it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I think first hand experiences like this are so helpful to everyone, that is the best fact about blogging. How wonderfully helpful!

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 

      5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      What a helpful post. Thank you. This is always hard for everybody involved. You have given me some good options here. Voted up and useful.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Oh, my....I feel so bad for you having to experience this with your own parents. There is so much to think about, but sounds like you handled everything great. I do agree that family should continue to visit as much as possible.

      Voted UP and shared.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Yes travmaj, the emotions are the toughest, especially for me as I am quite emotional. I appreciate you reading and your thoughtful comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much tillsontitan - I even find myself talking to doctors/therapists while forgetting that my dad is right there. It's easy to do, but so important not to. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and found it useful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks pstraubie - It is overwhelming how much info people need to know during this transition. I imagine for people with no family or only a spouse it is even more difficult. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks HattieMattieMae... For some people it is easy to forget their family that they don't see every day. I can't see that happening with my father though. In fact sometimes, he tells us to leave because we are bugging him (it's nice to see he still has his feisty side). I appreciate the comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • travmaj profile image


      5 years ago from australia

      Glimmer Twin - I'm so glad you wrote this all important hub. It's something we are rarely prepared for. Even though I knew it was going to be on the agenda for a family member, and I was the main person involved, I still wasn't prepared for all the issues involved. It did come as an emergency.

      It's a tough time for all and yes a range of emotions for all the family. Trying to adjust to a nursing home environment is tough - dealing with the many issues behind the scenes is difficult. And ongoing.

      I agree with your suggestions to help an elderly person settle although it takes time - visitors, telephone, photographs, tv, favourite books and DVDs, all helpful. (it didn't happen in this case but I can imagine having to leave pets behind would be totally stressful)

      Thanks for this and best wishes with everything. Voting!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      I really appreciate your comments Bill. This was a tough one to write as I am going through it all right now, but I also thought it was important. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Excellent tips. It so easy to forget the person you are moving, giving them a say or just keeping them informed sometimes makes them more comfortable.

      You've outlined things very well. I know, I had to move my mother to a nursing home several years ago and though we knew it was the end of the line we tried to make things as homey and comfortable for her as we could.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Well said, Glimmer Twin Fan. I have written about nursing home care and choices. And one of the most important elements is being aware and advised. It is never easy but steps can be taken to make it a positive decision.

      Thanks for sharing Angels are on the way :) ps

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      5 years ago from Europe

      Especially like the part don't stop visiting. Being a nurse aide, this happens a lot where family members just stop coming to visit, and the client is left alone, isolated, and withdrawals from socializing.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer Twin. Great tips and suggestions for what is most certainly one of the most stressful transitions in life. This info is very useful for anyone facing this. Most of us will eventually have to deal with this so best to be as prepared as possible. Great job. Voted up, shared, etc....

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile imageAUTHOR

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much Bill. We have been on a roller coaster ride this last month and a half. Hoping things will work themselves out in May. I really appreciate your nice comments. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful suggestions and tips my friend. I know how difficult this can be, having gone through it with my mother in 2002. This is a great read for anyone facing this situation. Well done!


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