5 Steps to Make Moving Elderly Parents to Assisted Living Easier5 Steps to Make Moving Elderly Parents to Assisted Living Easier

No one likes moving. Even at the best moments in life – when you’re moving in with a new spouse or partner for the first time, moving into a home you’ve just bought and love, or moving into a new space to make room for welcoming a new child into your life– the process of moving itself is reliably a pain.

When it’s time for a senior parent to move out of their home and into a senior care facility, you have to deal with both the typical pains of moving and the added emotional difficulty of leaving behind their familiar home for a place that’s less personal. Assisted living is often the best choice for seniors who can’t fully take care of themselves and for the family members who can’t afford to spend the required time and effort providing their care. Nonetheless, it’s a difficult choice to make and often an unpleasant process to get through.

We can’t offer you anything that will make the process of moving your elderly parents to assisted living painless, but we can offer a few tips to make it a little easier on everyone.

Step 1: Have the discussion early, if possible.

This isn’t a decision you want to spring on your parents. The ideal scenario would involve discussing the possibility of assisted living long before your loved one actually needs it, so they’ll have an easier time accepting it as a possibility and understanding why it’s necessary when the time comes.

If you’re reading this at a point where it’s too late for that, then you want to at least broach the topic in a way that’s respectful and doesn’t sound like a demand. Your parents have been adults making their own decisions for a long time. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve lost their freedom and independence. Just to be clear: moving to an assisted living home doesn’t have to mean that, but if you present it to your parents as a decision that’s already been made without their input, it will feel that way.

If nothing you say can get them to budge on the idea, there may be a point where you have to simply tell them it’s the only way. But make a real effort to make the case in a respectful, empathetic manner that frames it in terms of their benefits as well as its necessity.

Assisted living puts them in close contact with other seniors, means they won’t have the same risks when it comes to things like falls, and they’ll always have someone around to help if they face a problem they can’t handle on their own. And sometimes there are nice amenities to sweeten the pot, like a pool or regular activities on site.

Step 2: Find the right assisted living facility.

This is such an important step in the process. Your parents won’t be happy just anywhere. You need to work together on finding the assisted living facility that both meets their needs and satisfies their main desires. If health and exercise are really important to them, then making sure you find a facility with a good fitness room is paramount. If you know they’d never consider parting from their beloved pet, then a pet-friendly assisted living facility is a must.

Sit down and work out a list of the things you know are requirements and those things that should be considered “nice to haves.” You can search the assisted living homes in your area limiting your options based on the factors most important to your parents. Look at the pictures. Read the reviews. Take the time to really gain a picture of what your best options are. Then go and visit.

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You won’t really know what to expect of a home unless you show up in person, take a tour, and talk to some of the residents. Seeing how other residents have acclimated to the different homes can make a strong argument for the assisted living homes. If your parents find that one home in particular feels like it has a community and atmosphere they’ll feel at home in, then you’ll know you’ve found the right spot.

Step 3: Minimize belongings.

The space your parent will have in their assisted living facility will inevitably be much smaller than the space of most homes. If your parent lived in an apartment before, this step may be simple. If they had a house with multiple bedrooms, you’ll have a significant task ahead of you.

Your parents have a few main options for what to do with all their stuff:

Choose which items are the most important to hang on to and keep with them in assisted living. Recognize that they may have a very hard time narrowing down the amount to what will actually fit and you’ll probably need to help with that.

Decide what to give away to loved ones and family members. Chances are, your parents were already planning to give some of the family furniture and heirlooms to specific loved ones when they passed. They can do some of that gifting early, so the items stay in the family or with friends.

Figure out what can be kept in storage or held onto by family members. Maybe you have family members with a big garage or storage space that some items can go into. In that case, it may be a little easier for your parents to part with things they know won’t fit in assisted living, but that they won’t have to be giving up forever.

Decide what you can sell. There are probably a number of belongings in the mix that you can put on Craigslist or ebay to sell. Assisted living can be costly, so making some money off of the furniture and other items you no longer need before the move can be a big help.

Choose items to donate to charity. Many of the things you no longer need, someone else can really benefit from. Look into local charities that may want some of the items you’re giving up. Goodwill will usually come and do a pick up if you have a lot of items to give, so it can take some of the work off your plate as well.

Once your parents have whittled their belongings down to the things they need most (that will actually fit in their new space), it’s time to put the move in motion.

Step 4: Hire movers or enlist friends.

You’re all already dealing with the emotional fallout of the move. Go ahead and do what it takes to make sure the actual task itself is as painless as possible. Don’t try to do everything yourself, unless you have enough helpful friends and family to make it fairly quick and easy. Hiring movers can often make the task much easier for an affordable price. The less time you spend putting needless effort into boxing everything up, carrying heavy boxes from one place to another and then unpacking things, the more time and energy your parents will have for starting to get settled in their new home.

Step 5: Make sure their community stays close.

That means you, your other family members, and their close friends all have a job to do. A move to assisted living should not mean seeing less of your loved ones. It may take a little extra effort for people to make regular visits, especially if the location of the assisted living facility means they’re further away, but it’s crucial that you all do your part. Loneliness is dangerous for seniors, not to mention deeply unpleasant to experience while trying to transition to a new home and lifestyle.  It’s part of your job as family to keep it from creeping in.  

If you need help finding assisted living, our local Senior Living Advisors are here to help. Call now for your free consultation: (866) 592-8119

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.


  1. Ellen Mercer March 15, 2016 Reply

    I had an automatic revulsion to the idea that children would be self appointed to move parents into an assisted care place. If parents make the decision on their own, the children should help with the logistics but the idea of children deciding that it is time for parents to move, etc. is a horrible thought to me. My mother lived to 100 years old in her own home. We discussed the future and what she wanted to do and it is likely that if she needed help, I would have helped her find someone to live in to assist her. I can’t imagine the disrespect I would have shown if I had insisted that she move to an assisted care place.

    • Jan December 8, 2016 Reply

      Hi Ellen,
      Yes, you are indeed fortunate to have had your elderly mother stay in her home. You have no idea how much I would love to have the same for my parents. Dad is 92, mom 88. Mom was diagnosed with dementia two years ago and that has taken a toll on everyone. However, my sister and I have honored their wishes to remain in their three-story monstrosity.
      I live 650 miles away and my one living sibling lives further than that. When dad fell and broke his hip, with no family nearby to check on them, we knew it was time for them to move into assisted living in a facility near my home.

  2. Elena March 18, 2016 Reply

    Ellen, you were so lucky to have your mom be able to live in her own home. My mom is 95 with dementia unable to live alone although she insisted she could. It is not disrespectful to make the right and sometimes hardest choices to care for a parent that is no longer able to care for themselves.

  3. Ashley Turns October 4, 2017 Reply

    Since my grandparents are getting up there in age, my mom has decided that it is probably time to send them to an assisted elderly living facility of some kind. So thanks for suggesting that we sit down with them to come up with a list of requirements they would have for their future home and things they really want. Since I’m sure my mom wants this whole process to go as smoothly as possible, I’m sure she would love the idea of sitting down with her parents to come up with a list of things they need to have in the assisted elderly living facility they will be moving into.

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