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Moving to Assisted Living Checklist: Where to Start, What to Keep, and Everything in Between

15 minute readLast updated October 25, 2023
Written by Haines Eason
Reviewed by Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDPLeslie Fuller, a Licensed Master Social Worker and Certified Dementia Practitioner, is the owner of Inspired Senior Care.
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Moving a loved one into assisted living has its fair share of challenges — some emotional, others logistical — but there are simple ways to keep the process on track while minimizing stress for everyone involved. Learn how you can streamline your loved one’s transition by setting move-in day plans well in advance, deciding beforehand on the key furniture and furnishings for their new space, and using our assisted living moving checklist to stay organized.

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What to do before moving a parent to assisted living

Everyone knows there are practical arrangements that must be tended to before moving day, and moving a relative into assisted living requires a similar amount of planning ahead. This is especially true if you are moving an elderly parent with dementia into senior living. Hiring a moving company, squaring utility accounts, packing — these to-dos are just a few of the essentials, and the list can seem to run on and on.

There’s a good chance that you’ve got plenty of experience moving. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American has moved 11.7 times in the course of their life.[01] But moving a parent to senior living often involves an entirely new set of challenges. By taking care of the following details, and saving space for the fact that there will be some new physical and emotional hurdles with this kind of move, you can set everyone up for a smooth move.

Begin with logistics

Even as you and your loved one are settling on a specific unit or trying to figure out what to keep through the move, the move itself should be the first concern. If you’re hiring movers, start with an internet search for the most reputable ones in your area, but move quickly from a short list to phone calls and in-person interviews to assess the character and availability of your choices.

Hiring movers

As you’re looking for a mover, you may feel that many are just not a good fit. Moving a senior is a special endeavor, and a senior move manager may be for you. Additionally, your loved one’s new community may have a list of recommendations that they can share with you.

Remember to follow these essential steps:

  • Read reviews online. From those, make a selective list.
  • Get cost estimates. Pin companies down on any extra fees.
  • Confirm availability for move-in date. Be explicit about your dates, and question your prospects about contingency plans for weather.
  • Confirm that the moving company is properly licensed and insured. Even if you’re downsizing, you don’t want what is moved to arrive damaged.
  • Confirm companies’ ability to move heavy, specialty items (e.g., hospital bed). Don’t accept vague answers. Ask for proof of previous delicate moves.

Beyond movers: Paperwork, bills, cancelations

As you lock down how the move will occur (and who will do the actual lifting), also consider the following essentials. Make sure you have a notebook or device handy for note-taking, as there will be many, many details to remember and tasks to check off.

  • Confirm with the community that all pre-move paperwork is complete. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you don’t want any surprises at move-in, like designating a responsible party for financials.
  • Make sure all essential parties are aware of your loved one’s new address. A short list includes the postal service, the Social Security Administration, financial institutions, etc.
  • Make sure to give disconnect and cancelation notice to all utilities and other service providers. If your loved one uses a mobile phone, will they keep their service? Don’t forget sometimes-overlooked providers like cable and mail-order subscriptions.
  • Share your loved one’s new address and contact information with essential personal contacts.You’re probably already planning on updating family members, but don’t forget friends. Urge everyone to keep in touch, especially during the first weeks and months.
  • Transfer prescriptions if necessary. The new community may be far from a current pharmacy, or they may manage refills. Make sure to have a conversation with the community and your loved one’s doctors.
  • Prepare to transition care to a new doctor. Your loved one and you should prepare for the possibility that they may begin seeing a new physician or receiving care at a new medical facility. Some communities even have in-house physicians, which can be a real convenience.

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Put the new space front of mind

After settling on how the move will happen, focus on the new home itself. Having exact dimensions is helpful, as it can help identify which of your loved one’s pieces of furniture will fit and which need to be sold, handed down to family, or donated. Also, planning the room’s layout ahead of time may be helpful in easing some anxieties — both yours and theirs.

Also important, though, is the community’s layout. Where does your loved one’s room or apartment fit into the general flow? How close are they to the dining room, a nurse’s station, a common area where socializing may occur? If they like their quiet and are near a game room, maybe they’ll need a noise-canceling sound machine. Try to think outside the box.

Here are our layout planning tips:

  • Ask for a copy of your loved one’s room layout and the community’s floor plan. Are there multiple buildings? Are there multiple floors or wings? Be sure to check, and be sure to plan as closely as you can with your loved one.
  • Ask for a list of items the community will provide. Do they provide linens and bedding? Do they stock toiletries? You may be surprised at what’s included, but also at what’s not.
  • Ask for community rules and information on prohibited items. Some furniture like oversized beds might not be allowed. Also, be sure to ask about a pet policy if your love one wants to bring their furry friend as the community might not be able to offer them space to roam.
  • Make a list of your must-have furniture items, and measure them against the room’s layout. Don’t forget the wall space! Your loved one’s new living quarters might not be able to accommodate all their framed art and photos.

Start the process of downsizing

During one’s early and middle adult years, moving often means transitioning from one space into a similarly sized or larger one. In moving to assisted living, though, downsizing is often a primary concern. If this is your first time doing it, knowing where to begin downsizing is understandably challenging.

There’s often a fine line between wanting to keep something because it’s been around for a long time and because it adds value to one’s life. Remember that your loved one’s new home will likely be more like an apartment, maybe even a studio, and they may have decided to share living quarters to save money. That will reduce the available space for their furniture and decorations.

Remember to make the process as collaborative as possible to ensure your loved one feels seen and respected, and begin your work by assessing the following:

  • Heavy, oversized furniture. What realistically can you fit into the new home? And what furnishings will the community provide?
  • An abundance of knickknacks or collectibles. Sort the most important from the merely decorative. Be honest about which items have real sentimental value.
  • Throw rugs, area rugs, or other decorative items that sit on the floor. Floor space will be more limited than you think. Choose a few favorites, and check their size against the floor plan. Also, make sure these items are low profile and not a fall risk.
  • Chairs on wheels or without armrests. One sturdy chair that stays put, ideally with armrests, is probably enough. There may not be enough space for extra seating, such as around a dining table.
  • Seldom-worn jewelry and clothing. As with collectibles, be honest about which items hold memories and which ones don’t. With clothing, what does your loved one really wear, and what just hangs in the closet?
  • Duplicates of items. More than one? Let the extras go.

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How to pack when moving your parent to assisted living

Now that you’re in good shape to begin packing, start with items according to their frequency of use. Leave the kitchen and bathroom to the end. Clothing can wait, too. Staging by order-of-need allows your loved one to continue living comfortably in their home while still making packing progress as you approach the move-in date.

Pack these items early:

  • Legal and financial paperwork. Bundle these up, but keep them somewhere easily accessible. You’ll especially want to keep the power of attorney available. Note: Your parent can generally transfer their power of attorney to a new agent unless they are incapacitated, so make sure to touch base with them about it regularly.
  • Photos and keepsakes. Most can be packed, but leave a few out, especially the most important pictures. This can help reduce anxiety and confusion.
  • Seasonal clothing and accessories. Moving in summer? Pack away the winter wear.
  • Hobby supplies. Pack away less-favorite pastimes, but leave out a favorite one. If knitting is that favorite, keep out a project and needles.
  • Books, movies, and puzzles. You may end up letting lots of these go during downsizing, but most of what’s left can be packed early.
  • Decor. Same as with books, etc. — many decorative items may end up being donated, but the ones that aren’t can be boxed.

Save these items for move-in week:

  • Toiletries and medications. Leave out a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, and essential medications and vitamins. Keep them in an easy-to-access bag. Some of these medications can be packed when the time comes, but others should be kept close.
  • Health, wellness, and beauty items. As with toiletries, items like skin creams, nail tools, makeup, and more can be set aside as the move occurs.
  • Cleaning supplies. These may have been jettisoned during downsizing, and the community may take care of most cleaning, but a bottle of dish soap, maybe some toilet cleaner — these may still be needed.
  • Appliances and housewares. Even if the community does furnish some items, you’ll likely still need smaller kitchen appliances like a toaster and blender.
  • Furniture. Your loved one will need a bed, comfortable chairs, and a kitchen table right up until the move. Plus, you may need to sell or donate some of these items the day of the move.
  • Televisions and other electronics. Your loved one’s new room or apartment may have a TV, but it may not, so having something to watch until moving day will be a good way to take their mind off things.

If all this seems like a lot to remember, download our comprehensive Moving to Assisted Living Checklist to stay organized. And don’t forget that your Senior Living Advisor can be a source of support, encouragement, and reminders, too.

What to do after moving your parent to assisted living

Moving elderly parents into assisted living remains an emotional experience well beyond the actual move. They may be homesick for a while, and you may feel guilty for changing their environment. Your loved one’s social network will also have to adjust.

So, there are ways you can continue to help your loved one settle in and even embrace the change long after the move:

  • Stay in touch with texts, pictures, and calls. Go the extra step of putting reminders on your calendar or in your phone. Add reminders to also call your loved one’s friends and urge them to reach out. Find them a cellphone that meets their needs and is easy for them to use.
  • Coordinate visits with other family members and close friends. Maybe set up a family calendar through Google or another platform that allows several people to edit it and plan visits after their move.
  • Bring personal items to keep their new home feeling homey. Keep adding little touches as the settling in continues. This will show your investment in their new home.
  • Respect their space as they adjust. Your loved one may need you close by and want you to visit often at first, but they’ll also need some space occasionally. Over time, they may want to spend more and more time with new friends. Respect this and let them venture out.

In the end, remember: You’ve got this. This move was decided on and planned, and it was the right decision for you, your loved one, and your family. Be honest about your and your loved one’s feelings, make space to let them out, celebrate successes, and look for the bright moments as they occur in your loved one’s new home.


  1. United States Census Bureau. (2021, December 3). Calculating Migration Expectancy Using ACS Data.

Meet the Author
Haines Eason

Haines Eason, a sandwich generation caregiver, is a former senior copywriter and managing editor at A Place for Mom, where he covered nearly all senior-relevant topics. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Montana and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDP

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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