If you are helping an older loved one find an assisted living community for their next chapter in life, it’s likely crossed your mind that moving might be a bit complicated for them. Many seniors who make this transition are leaving a home they’ve lived in for generations. Cutting the emotional ties to it can be tough. And the uncertainty of a whole new living environment often adds to the stress.
With thoughtful planning, though, it is possible for an older adult to make a smooth transition to assisted living. Here are a few suggestions to help you create a moving plan.
6 Tips for Helping a Senior Prepare to Move to Assisted Living
Tip #1: Keep the Senior Involved
One mistake we see is when families make all of the decisions about senior living without involving the older adult. In some instances, it might be necessary. For example, older adults with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to participate.
Whenever possible, encourage your senior loved one to play an active role in this process. Even if you and your siblings tour multiple communities first and narrow down the list, take your loved one back to visit each one you think might be a good fit. Let them make the final decision.
Unless it creates too much anxiety, include your senior family member in the planning and details. It might be figuring out what furnishings to bring with them or what day they want to make the move. Helping seniors feel that they have a voice in the process usually results in a smoother, more satisfactory transition.
Tip #2: Get Involved in the Community Before Moving Day
Once your loved one has decided which assisted living community they will be moving to, encourage them to begin getting involved there before moving day. Talk with the staff to determine the best ways to do so. It might be by attending a wellness program like Chair Yoga once or twice a week. Or it could be by stopping in for lunch a few times.
This approach will help the senior start to learn their way around before moving day. Also ask if it is possible for them to meet the residents who will be their new neighbors.
Tip #3: Plan the New Space Together
While it might be tempting to buy all new furniture and accessories for this new chapter in life, it can keep the senior’s space from feeling like home.
Instead, ask the staff at the assisted living community for a copy of the apartment’s floor plan. Use it to determine which of their current belongings will fit and where. Also consider where to hang their favorite family photos and artwork.
If you need a little extra help figuring out how to downsize the senior’s current home, our Less Stuff for More Life tip sheet will be useful.
Tip #4: Have a Solid Plan for Moving Day
No matter how carefully you’ve planned, moving day might be emotional. Closing one door and opening another can be difficult at any age. For older adults, change may be especially tough.
Pack a suitcase filled with clothing, pajamas, personal care items, medication, and other supplies the senior will need immediately. It also helps to have a box with essentials: a coffee pot and supplies, paper towels, snacks, paper products, and toilet paper. If possible, load the suitcase and box in your car instead of on the moving truck so you have access to it right away.
Also give thought to how you and your senior will spend the day. Is it necessary to be at the home while the movers pack up? Or can another family member supervise? You and your loved one can enjoy lunch at their favorite restaurant and return later to say goodbye to the house.
Tip #5: Plan a Visitor's Calendar
Set up a visitors' calendar for the first few weeks after the move. This will give your senior loved one a friendly face or two each day. While you don't necessarily want to have visitors there around the clock—which can prevent them from making new friends—you do want to keep them from feeling abandoned.
It might help to get a copy of the community's activities calendar and invite family members and friends to attend different events. This will allow the senior to ease in to the community's activities.
You can set up a calendar in Google Drive or use a helpful app like Lotsa Helping Hands to keep visitor times organized.
Tip #6: Be Kind to Yourself
When much of your time has been devoted to caring for and supporting a senior loved one, this transition might be emotional for you, too. Some liken it to empty nest syndrome. Be kind to yourself if you feel a little down. It is a normal part of this change.
Our final suggestion is that once you have your family member safely settled in to their new home, indulge in some “me” time. Whether it is an afternoon to read and relax on the couch or a movie night with friends, reward yourself for a job well done!
Choosing a Senior Living Community
If you are just beginning the search for a senior living solution, Vitality Senior Living has a few resources you might find helpful. One is the guide Everything You Need to Know About Moving into Senior Living. Here you will find advice on everything from evaluating costs to handling difficult emotions.