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.
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:
Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.
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.
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:
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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” 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.
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,  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:
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.
Smith, G. V., & Ekerdt, D. J, (2011, August 1). Confronting the material convoy in later life. Sociological Inquiry.
Ekerdt, D. J., Luborsky, M., & Lysack, C. (2011, July 22). Safe passage of goods and self during residential relocation in later life. Ageing & Society.
Bekhet, A. K., Zauszniewski, J. A., & Nakhla, W. E. (2009, February 25). Reasons for relocation to retirement communities: A qualitative study. Western Journal of Nursing Research.
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 residents. Journal of Gerontological Social Work.
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