How to prepare a parent for assisted living

Ease the transition with tips for every step, from community tours to settling in.

October 19, 2021

5 min read

Older woman and daughter on laptop together

Helping your parents transition into senior living starts with an open discussion that keeps their needs, wishes, and best interests at the forefront of the conversation. This decision can be challenging, but unthreading the intricacies involved will ultimately help everyone feel more stable. Here are some questions for your family to consider:

  • How do your parents feel about where they live now?
  • What are their current care needs, and how much will those services cost?

Perhaps the most important question to address, however, is whether your parents should move into an assisted living community, independent living community, or a nursing home. In this article, we’ll discuss assisted living communities specifically – how to choose the right one, which questions to ask, and how to make the move.


As you’re researching assisted living communities, one of the first considerations that you’ll encounter is location. What makes sense for your parents? (Do they want to stay in the city where they’ve always lived, or, if you live a few states away from them, does it make more sense for them to be closer to you?) Then research the community that’s right for them in that area. Come up with a few options, and go visit those communities – because even though their online photos will most likely look welcoming, you’ll want to walk the corridors and feel the atmosphere yourself.

Visit at least three assisted living communities. Schedule a tour during mealtime, so you can sample the restaurant fare. Talk to the staff. Mingle with the other residents and sit in on an activity – anything from an exercise class to a lecture series – to gauge how deeply those workshops have been planned and how effectively they’re presented. Ask questions. Take notes. Try to wander off the tour circuit, if possible, observing the gardens, taking in the views and walking around the on-site amenities and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Bear in mind that even if a certain community seems ideal – great price-point, stellar amenities, friendly reception, excellent kKey lime pie – it may not match up with your parents’ personalities. Some people prefer a patio with plenty of sunlight and a pineapple-beetroot amuse-bouche. Others of us are library-and-fireplace people who look forward to rainy nights with a novel and a glass of scotch. Your parents might like the food in one location, the residents in another, and the amenities and ambience of a third. Weigh all those options equally as your family decides which one is ultimately best for them.

Care services

Yes, you want to choose a community that matches your parents’ personalities, but one of the most important considerations to weigh is the community’s care services. You have most likely chosen assisted living, because, while you want your parents to continue their independent lifestyle, you also want them to benefit from living somewhere that can help with activities of daily living (or “ADLs”) if needed – such as bathing, getting dressed, and assistance with medication management. Be sure to discuss how the community will assess the level of care that your parents require. Take time to meet the nurses or caregivers on staff, if possible. Make sure that, if you do move your parents into a certain community, all the services and ADLs that they require will be provided and will be within your budget.

Packing and downsizing

Now that you’ve visited the communities in your area, you’re ready to commit to a decision and complete the transition – which involves packing.

Budget some time for this step, because it may take a while for your parents to consolidate their possessions. Remember how attached they may be to certain items in their house. Pictures or letters they’ve stored away and haven’t seen in years may evoke memories, so listen to them as they decide what they’re willing to part with – and what they want to hold on to. Be prepared to make lists of people to contact in case your uncle or cousin might want an armoire or a children’s book that’s belonged to your family for generations.

As you pack, be thinking about how you’re going to make the move. Will you transport your parents’ belongings to their new community one carload at a time? Will you hire movers? Decide on the date and time of the move, and the resources you’ll need, way ahead of schedule, so that you don’t run into any surprises come moving day.

Getting involved in activities

Once your parents are all moved into their new homes, it may be a good idea to visit them more frequently for the first few weeks or months, just to make sure they’re enjoying their new surroundings. Review their care assessment to stay apprised of any changes to their health. Encourage them to attend events in the community, so they can meet other residents. Talk to the staff and ask how they’re acclimating, and what arrangements or modifications might be made to make them feel more comfortable.

Staying involved

Do whatever you can to help your parents become well -situated, and if the usual 90-day acclimation period has passed and they feel as if a certain assisted living community isn’t the right fit for them, it’s okay to start the process over. Follow the steps we’ve listed above and listen to how your parents feel about the communities you visit. If this process sounds overwhelming, that’s okay, too. Contact us today to talk to a director of a community near you, so we can answer any of your questions about assisted living.

If you or someone you know wants to learn more about Atria, visit to discover the location nearest you.

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Not sure where to start?

There’s a lot to learn when you become a caregiver, and you may be wondering where to start. Fortunately, many of the experiences you’ll encounter are common, and we've pulled together resources to help you along your journey.

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