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5 Tips to Help Your Parent Transition to Assisted Living

By Rebecca Schier-AkameluFebruary 24, 2022
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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, a move from a life-long home to an assisted living community often comes with its own relocation 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 will adjust.

Here are five tips to help smooth the transition to assisted living.

1. Begin the transition early

Think about how your parent may react to the thought of moving to assisted living. If you think they would do better with 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.

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

  • A Senior Living Advisor. Our local senior living experts can offer free help with everything from veterans benefits assistance to understanding the level of care your loved one needs. They will help you consider things like cost, location, and lifestyle factors such as pet-friendly options.
  • A geriatric care manager. These licensed professionals 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.

Feel supported and knowledgeable discussing senior living with our comprehensive guide.

Our step-by-step advice can help you start a productive dialogue, set expectations with your family, and consider next steps.

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2. 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’re especially needed if your parent has a lot of sentimental items or you live far away.
  • Create a “safe passage” 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.
  • Have an estate sale. Sell items or donate them to charity.

3. Help with logistics

While your parent has a lot to process emotionally, 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 gas, electric, cable, etc.
  • 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 help. For example, one person may spend the day with your parent while another helps to arrange the furniture in their 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 spaces and meet their new neighbors?

4. Be available

Even if your parent insists they will be fine, you may want to plan to spend time with your loved one in their community during their 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.

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.

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

5. 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 in assisted living facilities, according to a study in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

Make sure you plan regular visits, and enlist other family members to visit your parent as well.

  • 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 they want or need.
  • 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 emotionally as well. It’s a big adjustment for many to see their loved one move to an assisted living facility, but many seniors actually find that they prefer it once they’ve settled in. With your encouragement, your loved one may feel at home before you know it.


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.

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

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

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.

Rebecca Schier-Akamelu

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