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Tips and Tricks-Best Practices for Easy Transition Into Assisted Living or Personal Care

A move into assisted living, personal care or memory care can be incredibly overwhelming for not only the senior citizen who is making the move, but the entire family unit, the caregivers and the team at the community. These are suggestions that can ease this transition.

Do The Paperwork Ahead of Time:

I wrote a whole article on the extensive paperwork involved in a move. Feel free to read it here:

Do not wait until the day of the move to get this out of the way. Doing this ahead of time will make everyone's move day more pleasant.

Don't Plan For The Weekend:

I know that the temptation is to plan your loved one's move for a weekend when you can get the whole family together to help, but many buildings won't even allow you to move your loved one in over the weekend. Some won't even allow a Friday move-in. If you must utilize the weekend for your schedule, get the furniture set up over the weekend, but plan to bring your loved one on Monday morning.

While assisted living is a 24-7 business, the choice to move in over the weekend will often leave you and your loved one feeling less than loved. Though the building may have a manager on duty, activities, care and dining staff on Saturday or Sunday, the rest of the directors are generally off. The transition is always better when all hands are on deck to fully welcome your loved one and ensure that any maintenance, housekeeping, nursing and care issues are addressed in a timely fashion. The best way to ensure that you get an "all hands on deck" experience is to plan it during the week, preferably in the morning. Memory care move-ins tend to be more successful when the apartment is set up and the resident is in the dining room for lunch.

The wellness team and the director of nursing have many considerations and action items surrounding the move-in process, and key staff may not be onsite outside of regular business hours--yet another reason why weekend move-ins are not ideal.

Furniture, Keep It Personal:

If you are coming off a crisis where your loved one is moving directly from a skilled rehab into assisted living, the temptation is to take the furniture that may be provided. (Pennsylvania personal care homes can provide a bed, night stand, dresser, lamp and chair.) While this can be helpful, it's not personal, comfortable, or familiar for your loved one. Keep in mind that assisted living and personal care homes are not hotels. They may have laundry and linen services but that doesn't always mean that they provide the beds, pillows, sheets and towels. If they do have these items, they most likely are second hand and sometimes more than gently used. I highly recommend, at the very least, buying a set of fresh sheets, pillows, comforter and towels and labeling them for your loved one.

If your loved one needs a hospital bed, understand that most assisted living or personal care homes do not provide these or any other durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, or shower chairs. This will need to be ordered ahead of time. Most durable medical equipment companies can and will deliver during regular business hours but may not always deliver on the weekends, so plan accordingly.

If you have the time, move furniture from your loved one's current dwelling into their new apartment or spend the money and purchase new furniture for them. Hire a professional move manager to help you with the planning, layout and moving of larger items so you can focus on the smaller details and comfort of your loved one.

Bring decorations to make the apartment feel more like home, including something to personalize the door. Bring framed family photos, artwork and other home decor that will make them feel at home.

If you can set up the apartment before your loved one arrives, it will make the transition smoother. If your loved one is of sound mind and wants to be involved, allow them to decide the layout of their belongings but consider taking them out for the execution of the plan. It can be very stressful for them to see all of their belongings being moved.

Kitchen Items:

If the apartment offers a kitchenette with a sink, cabinets, microwave and refrigerator, bring a few items. A few suggestions are beverages, snacks, plates, mugs, cutlery and glasses. Don't go crazy because they will not use most of their kitchenette items. Be sure to bring some dish soap, hand soap, sponge or brush for washing dishes, dishtowels and paper towels as these aren't often stocked in assisted living apartments.

Bathroom items:

Aside from towels, bring all of your loved one's toiletries, hand soap, hand towels and wash cloths.


Clothing is a big deal for some people and others don't seem to care much. You know what your loved one likes to wear and what is most important to them. Take stock in what they have and supplement with anything that they don't have. Depending on how much space is in the closet of their new apartment, you may need to strip down to the basics. Obviously, they will need seasonal clothing, including a jacket if you live in a cooler climate. Be sure to also to include a bathrobe and slippers, even if they don't have them. They may be receiving help from care staff when they are less than fully dressed and this will give them the option for some modesty if they desire it.

If your loved one needs adult incontinence products, be sure to bring or order them. Most assisted living will not provide these for free. Some buildings will have a payment plan where you can buy into a package deal. Ensure that you understand your responsibilities before they move in so they are not left with an embarrassing situation.

Please remember to bring hangers to hang clothing. These are not provided by most buildings.

Also bring a laundry basket or bag for personal laundry. This is one thing that is often overlooked until a pile has accumulated.

Entertainment and Technology:

Most buildings will either not include cable and internet and ask that the family or resident set it up on their own or will have an extra fee to buy into the system that they already have in place. Make sure you understand what the building offers and what you need to do to set up your loved one's television and/or internet on the first day. You will most likely need to either bring or purchase a television as most buildings do not offer them in the apartments.


Medications can be tricky so ask what the building protocol is. If your loved one's medications are being managed by the director of nursing, ask them before you bring prescription and non-prescription medications. For safety, some buildings will ask that you secure any non-prescription medications and they may need to supply a lock box for this.

If your loved one is coming straight from a skilled rehab, sometimes they will be sent with blister packaged medications. Often times, the assisted living or personal care home will be able to take these and administer them, so hand them directly to the nursing director upon arrival. Do not take them to your loved one's apartment.

Memory Care Considerations:

If you are moving your loved one into a secured memory care community or neighborhood in a greater personal care or assisted living community, there are some things you will want to avoid bringing. Anything that might be unsafe to ingest should be handed over to the memory care director or director of wellness. This is especially important for toiletries as most memory care communities will secure these in a locked closet for your loved one to use with supervision. Shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash, over the counter medications, liquid makeup, razors and perfumes should be kept out until they can be secured.

Avoid bringing valuable items. Often times in memory care, residents will wander in and out of each other's apartments and sometimes they take each other's things. If your loved one is in personal care or assisted living and wants to keep valuables or cash, purchase a lock box or safe for the apartment. While theft isn't the biggest concern, it does happen, and most buildings will have a clause in the contract that if anything is lost or stolen, the building is not liable. If there are any valuable keepsakes or jewelry that need to stay in the family, keep them at home.

Hiring A Transitional Caregiver:

While most buildings will work tirelessly to help your loved one adjust, keep in mind that even in memory care, they will not have one on one attention at all times and may need additional support. Hiring a home care aid to ease the transition is a nice way to help your loved one feel supported while they adjust. While this is an additional cost up front, it can make or break a situation for your loved one and it's money well spent. A home care aid can sit with them during waking hours, or even overnight for the first few days to weeks, depending on how well they are doing. This person can help them find the dining room, get to activities and help them feel less alone and fearful. Of course, this all depends on your loved one's personality and how well they understand their situation.

Many new residents suffer from falls within the first few days of a move due to the unfamiliar setting. This isn't 100% avoidable with a home health aid; however, with the one on one support, the likelihood of it happening can be diminished.

Keep in mind that this move is usually going to be a huge adjustment for your aging loved one and the more you can do to ease the transition and support them, the better the outcome for all parties.

What NOT To Bring:

Firearms of any kind are not allowed in Pennsylvania personal care homes. I can't speak for other states, but I would imagine the "what not to bring" list is going to be similar. Even with a license to carry, guns aren't allowed by residents, guests or employees. If your loved one is a hunter or feels that they need to protect themselves with a firearm, you will need to explain that they can't have them in their new apartment. You may want to consider renting a storage unit if they are selling their home and would like to keep their firearms.

Space heaters, open flame candles, hot plates, or anything else with an open heating element are generally not allowed either. You may want to ask about convection ovens, coffee makers with an open heating plate, and toasters. I have found in my experience that they aren't allowed either. Some buildings won't even allow electric blankets or electric heating pads.

Participation is Key:

At the end of the day, your goal is to make this the smoothest transition for a difficult time in your aging loved one's life. Hopefully they adjust quickly; however, it often takes weeks if not, months for a full adjustment into the new lifestyle. The time is less if they have a friend that already lives in the community or they can make friends quickly.

The best way to help your loved one make friends is to take a good look at the activities calendar and find a few things that they might enjoy doing. Often times, buildings will have a new resident meet and greet or something else that will help your loved one feel welcome and give them a chance to ask questions about the community. If not, find an activity that they enjoy and plan to participate with them. This will speed up the process of integration. The more you get to know the other residents and the activities team, the more you can encourage your loved one to participate.

Many people feel that taking their loved one out to eat is a good way to spend time with them, but, in the beginning, you may want to consider planning meals with them in the dining room of the community to get to know some of the other residents and dining staff.

Most new residents that feel welcome find that they adjust more rapidly. You have more control than you realize in this situation and if you nurture it, you may find your loved one is quickly adjusting and enjoying their new life.

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