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5 Tips to Help Your Parent Transition to Assisted Living

8 minute readLast updated January 6, 2023
Written by Rebecca Schier-Akamelu
Reviewed by Leslie FullerLeslie Fuller, LMSW, owns Inspired Senior Care, providing coaching to senior living communities and dementia care.
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Moving is one of life’s biggest challenges, whether you’re picking your first apartment or downsizing post-retirement. For seniors, transitioning to assisted living from a lifelong home often comes with a sense of anxiety and stress. Your parent may have a hard time going through their belongings, saying goodbye to familiar surroundings, and adjusting to the lifestyle change that comes with receiving assistance with daily care. But with some help, your loved one can adjust. Check out these five tips to learn how to ease the transition to assisted living.

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Begin the transition early

Think about how your parent may react to the thought of moving to assisted living. If you think they’d do better being involved, consider including them in the search for a community.

On the other hand, some families may want to present their aging loved one with community options first. Our step-by-step senior living conversation guide can help you start a productive dialogue, set expectations with your family, and establish next steps for transitioning to assisted living.

If beginning the search for senior living seems overwhelming, reach out to one of the following experts for help:

  • A Senior Living Advisor. A Place for Mom’s senior living experts will work to understand the level of care a loved one needs and match them with communities nearby. Our advisors can help you consider things like cost, location, and lifestyle factors such as pet-friendly options. They can also provide details on assisted living benefits for veterans.
  • A geriatric care manager. These licensed specialists can provide an initial assessment of your parent’s care needs, offer suggestions for short- and long-term care plans, and provide useful, unbiased guidance as you consider senior living options.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Choose favorite items for your parent’s new home

Your parent will likely have less space in their new home, and choosing items to part with can bring up a wide range of emotions and memories. Downsizing should be handled gently and respectfully.

  • Consider hiring a senior move manager. These vetted professionals specialize in assisting seniors and can come up with creative solutions to help your loved one downsize smoothly and with dignity. They can be especially helpful if your parent has a lot of sentimental items or if you live far away and can’t help with the hands-on process of packing.
  • Create a “safe passage[01] for treasured items. Let your parent tell you the significance of important pieces, and respectfully help them find a new home for everything they can’t take with them. This advice is backed by a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, published in Ageing & Society.[02]
  • Have an estate sale for remaining possessions. If your parent’s current space still has plenty of leftover items after you’ve set aside the essentials, sell them or donate them to charity.

Help with the logistics of transitioning to assisted living

Often, seniors may be more focused on the emotional effects of moving instead of the organizational details. Your parent might be confused about why they have to leave home, or they may be sad and regretful about selling the house where they made so many great memories. These feelings are all completely normal, so try to give your parent space to manage their emotions and take the time to reassure them the move is a positive shift.

Because your parent has a lot to process, you can help with other items on the to-do list:

  • Keep track of bills. Cancel recurring bills at your parent’s home such as water, gas, electricity, and cable.
  • Sort out utilities. Set up any utilities that your parent may want in their new apartment. Each community handles utilities differently, and your parent may be responsible for things like internet and cable.
  • Schedule help. Hire movers and bring in other family members to lend a hand. For example, one person may explore the community with your parent while another arranges furniture in the new space.
  • Plan their acclimation. Meet with the activities director or your parent’s caregiver in the community to plan your parent’s first few days. Will someone help your parent find activity areas and meet their new neighbors?

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Be available

Even if your parent insists they’ll be fine, you may want to plan to spend time with them in their community during the first few days. If your parent wants your support, you might take this time to enjoy a meal with them in the dining room, participate in a game night, or just spend time outside exploring the grounds together.

Understand that “relocation stress”[03] is common in seniors transitioning to new environments. Symptoms can include confusion and anxiety, so having a trusted loved one around may reduce these emotions in seniors.

If your parent wants to acclimate on their own, you can use this time to get to know the caregivers and community staff. Building a rapport with these new members of your parent’s care team can help all of you work together smoothly to support your parent.

Plan to visit

Hopefully your parent or loved one will have plenty of activities and social events to look forward to, but family relationships will still make up a large part of their identity. Losing family relationships is a common concern of seniors transitioning to assisted living facilities, [04] according to a study in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work. Make sure you plan regular visits — and enlist other family members and friends to visit your parent, too.

The following tips can help you and your loved one stay connected:

  • Plan visits ahead of time. Hang a calendar for your parent that includes the dates and times when they can expect to see you.
  • Take turns. If you have multiple family members in town, plan weekly or monthly one-on-one visits with your loved one.
  • Create a group calendar. Coordinate visits with family and friends so you know your loved one will have the company when they want or need some.
  • Plan group visits. Family and friend get-togethers can be fun as well.

With your assistance and support, your loved one can look forward to a fulfilling life in their new senior living community. Although this is an emotional time for your parent, remember to take care of yourself, too. It’s a big adjustment for many to see their loved one transition to assisted living, but rest assured that many seniors actually find they prefer it once they’re settled. With your encouragement, your loved one may feel at home before you know it.

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. Smith, G. V., & Ekerdt, D. J, (2011, August 1). Confronting the material convoy in later lifeSociological Inquiry.

  2. Ekerdt, D. J., Luborsky, M., & Lysack, C. (2011, July 22). Safe passage of goods and self during residential relocation in later lifeAgeing & Society.

  3. Bekhet, A. K., Zauszniewski, J. A., & Nakhla, W. E. (2009, February 25). Reasons for relocation to retirement communities: A qualitative studyWestern Journal of Nursing Research.

  4. Tompkins, C. J., Ihara, E. S., Cusick, A., & Park, N. S. (2012, April). Maintaining connections but wanting more: The continuity of familial relationships among assisted-living residentsJournal of Gerontological Social Work.

Meet the Author
Rebecca Schier-Akamelu

Rebecca Schier-Akamelu is a writer at A Place for Mom. Her writing supports a person-centered approach to senior care and she’s written on a range of topics from home care to finances. She holds a certificate in digital media and marketing from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University.

Edited by

Marlena Gates

Reviewed by

Leslie Fuller

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