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ASSISTED LIVING IT IS! Preparing for the Move and Transitioning into Assisted Living Communities

Reasonable thoughts from a Geriatric Nurse Care Manager & Daughter

By: Hildy Sheinbaum, RN


So, the decision has finally been made after months of agonizing. The task of moving is at hand, and “overwhelmed” doesn’t even begin to mildly describe how everyone is feeling. Below are helpful hints to get you organized and ease the transition into an Assisted Living Community.


Altering A Mindset

The home you are leaving is undoubtedly filled with memories and valuable personable possessions. Likely there is reason why you or your loved one “needs” each and every item in the house ?. My best advice would be to try to take emotions out of the picture and get down to practicality. What is most functional in the new space? Look it as an opportunity to “start fresh,” and eliminate the things that you/your loved one no longer uses, that are outdated or non-functional. Overall, I emphasize thinking about life as a continuum that we are moving along, and this move is now the next phase. While we often have no control over how or when things change, we can be proactive and manage how we react and adapt to those changes. I encourage people to use this as a mantra when the mere concept of change becomes an overwhelming stressor.


Schedule the move at a time when supportive family members will be around for a few weeks and no vacations are scheduled. It is so helpful for those making the move to have the love, encouragement, and simple security of a family member who can advocate and assist with the acclimation. Emotions can be fragile, so having a loved one in the wings goes a long way to help keep perspective and give the new resident a “nudge” when needed.

What You Have vs. What You Need

Ask the Community to provide you with a list of recommended items for move-in specific to furnishings, clothing and personal items such as toiletries, linens, and kitchen items. Let this be your starting point. Carefully review the list, and from that, create your own list of what you have and what you will need.

Request a floor plan of the new space, with measurements. Survey your/your loved one’s current home, and tag the items that will meet your needs and that you/your loved one wish to take along. If you or your loved one are coming from a larger space, and significant downsizing is needed, consider donations to local charities such as Vietnam Veterans of America (, local Churches or Synagogues, shelters, or Habitat for Humanity. Perhaps think about digitizing the many boxes of pictures that can’t be parted with, or giving them to children or grandchildren to enjoy family memories. There are a variety of small businesses that assist in organizing, downsizing, and moving. Senior Relocation Partners is one such organization in the tri-state area that provides personalized assistance to walk you through every aspect of the physical move— in a kind, caring, and thoughtful manner.

Connecting to the Community Before the Move

Typically, Assisted Living Communities ask prospective residents to complete extensive pre-move in paper work so that the community gains an understanding of individual preferences and patterns. Take the time to accurately complete the documents and give thought to the questions they ask. The information obtained on these forms is often the gateway to a community “pairing” incoming resident with current residents, “making matches,” so to speak, to facilitate friendships, supports, and comfort. I suggest meeting with the Executive Director and key staff to review these preferences and patterns prior to the move date. It’s also helpful to sit down with the Recreation staff before moving to identify those activities in the community that you/your loved one would like to be involved in. Once the move takes place, the new resident has a basic understanding of what is available and can more readily “jump right in,” and get involved—whether it is a game of Bridge, an exercise class, discussion group, or an art class.

I also suggest speaking with the Community Relations Director prior to move-in, and ask that they set up a time for the incoming resident to meet with a current resident who shares similar interests, likes, and backgrounds. Keep in mind, however, that this is not always possible or advisable for individuals with memory impairment. Cases must be considered individually, and I can’t emphasize enough that the professionals at the Community can provide the best insight as to whether this would be beneficial.


Making the New Apartment feel Like “Home”

While you don’t want to clutter the new environment, it is important to bring familiar items that provide comfort to the new resident. Photographs of family members and a few photo albums are always a wonderful addition to a new home, as are a handful of favorite pieces of artwork. If in good condition, a favorite comforter, pillow, and bedding provide a sense of security and familiarity, as does a recliner chair to relax in, watch TV or read in. A power lift recliner is often helpful to assist individuals with mobility impairment in getting up out of a chair with ease. While many communities have light fixtures, be sure to bring lamps to provide you/your loved one with enough light. I always find that people adjust well to bright, well-lighted, colorful spaces rather than to dark and dingy ones. Bring those things that provide a personal connection wherever possible; that will undoubtedly ease in any transition.

On move-in day, have a family member or friend assist in placement of furniture, unpacking, and getting organized, so that the apartment can immediately “feel like home” to the new resident. Most people are creatures of habit, so be aware that it takes time to get used to the location of things in a new space. I have placed post-its on some dresser drawers to remind a new resident where their shirts or undergarments are now located.

Acclimating to New Community Life

Any move at any age can be difficult, and making a move as an older adult is no different. Expect it will take 2-3 months to get used to a new community, and understand that there will be “good” and “not so good” days at the beginning. It takes time to get oriented to the physical layout of a new building, and to get into the rhythm of group activities and community dining. Assisted Living Communities have experienced staff to assist with the transition, and as mentioned above, it is important for a prospective resident to lay the groundwork so that trained staff have all of the background information to make it a bit easier. Keep in mind the following:

Neighborly Knock: Take the time to knock on the doors of your immediate neighbors. Most residents like to know who lives next door, and a greeting upon your arrival goes a long way.

Dining: Meals are often a time of unease, as it can be intimidating to walk into a dining room alone, when groups of people who seem to know each other are sitting and happily conversing. Be sure to ask the Community to set you or your loved one up at a table with people of like personalities and interests. While the “match” might not be perfect, it will undoubtedly give the new resident a sense of security not to have to “figure out” where and with whom to sit at mealtimes.

Recreation: Most Communities have robust schedules of activities throughout the day and evening hours. It is often difficult to decide what to choose, especially when someone is new to a Community. Once you or your loved one is physically moved in, I suggest meeting again with the Director of Recreation to review the schedule of activities and help organize an individual plan. Regardless of what is selected, I unequivocally say, “GET INVOLVED!” The faster a new resident can become engaged in activities, the easier it is to meet other residents, and the easier the transition. There are often Resident Council Committees where residents can discuss topics of concern and voice opinions about community rules, regulations, and preferences. This is a great forum to get to know your neighbors and gain insight into who you may want to get to know better. Additionally, if the new resident has an area of expertise that can be shared with others, make it known to the Recreation Director. So, for example, if you or your loved one is a seasoned knitter, why not offer to teach a knitting class? Or, if the new resident has been a tax accountant for 40 years, a class on “tax tips for seniors” might be a wonderful addition. Share what you know! It’s a wonderful way to give to and adjust to the new setting.

Relaxation: It is also important for the resident to give himself/herself some “down time” in the new apartment. A move is exhausting, and often there is no time to even think about everything that has taken place. Set aside some time daily in the new apartment to rest, read, listen to some music, or just simply sit in the new environs.

Visitation: It is always nice for new residents to receive visits from family and friends. This gives a deep sense of connection with those who are loved, as well as the outside world. I do advise that family members allow some space for their loved one to adjust and get to know their new surroundings and routines of the community. Too frequent visiting during the early weeks can divert a new resident’s attention away from the community and can prolong the transition period.

Most important though, is to recognize that change is never easy. Remember to give yourself or your loved one time to adapt to the new setting. If there is any concern, make it known, so that staff can assist in making things right. Take advantage of all that is offered.

Stay well!

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