Tips for helping your parent transition to senior living

Use this guide to ease the move to community living and stay organized through the change.

July 01, 2022

7 min read

A beautiful mixed race young adult woman embraces her vibrant retirement age mother

The moment has arrived – your parent made the decision to sell their home and move to a senior living community. Both of you may feel excited and relieved, but you may also feel anxiety and guilt, and your parent may feel sad, skeptical and even angry. Here are some tips to help make your parent’s transition to community living as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Prepare for the move to a senior living community

The myriad details involved in moving your parent to assisted living can seem overwhelming. Breaking things down into smaller, more manageable steps will reduce stress and simplify the process. Keep in mind, the senior living community is there to assist you every step of the way – their expertise and resources could save you significant time, money and headaches.

Write it all down – Don’t rely on scattered notes, emails and memory alone to manage important details. Get a notebook dedicated to your parent’s move and fill it with to-do lists, schedules, contact information, community apartment floor plans and anything else that will assist with the moving process.

Secure important documents – Make it easy for your parent to access important information they may need once they’ve moved into their new home by compiling it all in one safe place. Consider a fireproof box or small safe to store important documents like wills, medical records, their passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, etc.

Discuss the home sale with your parent – Before contacting a real estate professional, you may need to address the strong emotions associated with selling a family home. This guide and this blog can help with that discussion.

Consider the benefits of a real estate professional – While it may be tempting to sell the home yourself, an experienced professional can get you more exposure, sell the home faster and negotiate a better price – saving you the time and stress associated with listing and showing the house. They can also suggest smaller cosmetic renovations that could improve resale value with little investment. Ask the senior living community for real estate professional referrals.

Make downsizing uplifting – Your parent’s home is likely filled with cherished items acquired over decades. Allow ample time for them to sort through it all. Be patient and sensitive to your parent’s feelings, and keep these tips in mind:

  • Get their new floor plan. This will help determine which furnishings will fit into your parent’s new home.
  • Do a little every day. Sorting through mementoes can spark fond memories that evoke strong emotions. Allow time to determine what to keep, pass down to family or donate to charity – but encourage your parent to make this a daily activity so it doesn’t become overwhelming as the move-in date approaches.
  • Purge paperwork. Throw out any old documents, files, newspapers and magazines that are no longer needed.
  • Keep it festive. Make it a party. Put on some music, break out the wine and cheese, and invite other family members to help your parent sort through their belongings.

Take the pain out of packing – Seek estimates from at least two local moving companies and ask the senior living community for referrals. Allow ample time for packing – it typically takes much longer than most people think. Here are some more handy tips:

  • Schedule family pickups. Give family members a firm schedule to collect anything your parent is handing down. Make sure any donated items are on track to be picked up or delivered to the appropriate charities – most will provide free pick-up service.
  • Make a list. To make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle, make an itemized list of everything that’s going to your parent’s new home. Be sure to note any fragile items or electronics that may require special packing.
  • Manage medications. Before moving, make sure your parent has refilled their medications and, if necessary, transferred prescriptions to a pharmacy closer to the senior living community. Place all medications in a dedicated box for easy access in their new home.
  • Notify others of your parent’s new address. Contact the local post office to ensure mail is delivered to your parent’s new home. If they receive Social Security or Medicare benefits, update their address online.

Make their new senior living community feel like home

The community director will show your parent the comforts and features of their new home while making sure essentials like medications, grooming tools and bathing items are within reach. Consider a housewarming gift like a recent family photo, knitted blanket, a favorite homemade dessert or crafts made by grandchildren.

Here are a few more ways you can ease their transition:

Get acquainted before moving in – A familiar face goes a long way to making one feel more relaxed and assured, so help your parent meet other residents and staff a few weeks before moving in. Accompany your parent to a meal in the community restaurant and introduce them to the chef. Visit the salon and say hello to the hairdresser. Encourage your parent to attend a social event or two to meet some of their new neighbors.

Give your parent space – You may feel tempted to visit and call your parent more frequently when they first move, but be careful not to overdo it. Assure them you’re available, but give them time to meet their neighbors and explore their new environment.

Encourage social connection – Enjoy an occasional meal with your parent in the community restaurant or join them for a social event, class or program. Take note if they are interacting with other residents and staff, and gently make introductions if your parent appears shy about making new acquaintances.

Monitor their well-being – When you talk to your parent, ask if they are eating well, taking their medications, engaging with others and staying active. Talk with the community director to stay apprised of your parent’s physical and emotional health, and ask what arrangements can be made to help your parent adapt to their new environment.

Manage the emotional impact

The excitement you feel over your parent’s new beginning can sometimes be accompanied by feelings of sadness or guilt, leaving you with doubts. Was this the right decision? Will my parent be happy? Will they make new friends? Will they be cared for?

Understanding the many ways older adults benefit from a community setting may ease these concerns. Explore “5 reasons why older adults thrive in senior living communities” and “How quality care services empower older adults” to learn more and consider other ways to manage any conflicting emotions.

Find support – Share your feelings and concerns with family and friends – they can often provide a different perspective or offer advice you hadn’t previously considered. If you still feel overwhelmed, consider discussing the situation with the director of the senior living community. If warranted, they can recommend a therapist to help work through this time. Seek out local support groups created specifically for children of older adults.

Consider the alternative – If you find yourself second-guessing the decision, reflect on all of the concerns that led to it. Maintaining a household was likely becoming more challenging and perhaps even more dangerous for your parent. Could you have continued to provide the level of care your parent needs, especially as those needs escalate? What about their feelings of isolation? Study after study has shown that daily connection improves well-being and happiness.

Know what you’re feeling is normal – Many children of older adults have felt like they were letting their parents down by not doing more to help them keep living at home. But encouraging your parent to move to a senior living community is an act of love that can empower them to live a more fulfilling life.

Call on us for help or support

As a leader in the industry, Atria Senior Living is happy to share our expertise and offer any support we can – even if the support you need is from someone other than us. Our trusted partnerships with local real estate professionals and moving companies could offer significant savings and take much of the worry out of your planning.

We can assist with your parent’s move every step of the way, from obtaining any needed medical documents to selling your parent’s home to the move itself. We can even put you in touch with interior designers that will fill your parent’s new apartment with furnishings that reflect their style and make everything feel homey.

We want to see your parent flourish in their new home from their very first day here. Reach out to your local Atria community director today to make your parent’s transition as positive and smooth as can be.

Our Checklist to Transitioning to Senior Living (PDF)

Illustration of garden entrance with arched gate

Not sure where to start?

Whether you’ve provided care for a parent for years or are just starting to notice signs of cognitive decline in a spouse, caregiving comes with challenges every step of the way. Explore our five areas of the journey for tailored support along your path.

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