The moment has come: you and your loved one have decided on a perfect senior living community. It’s exactly what you both have been looking for, and you are both confident that this move to senior living will be what’s best for your loved one’s whole health, and for your shared relationship.
However, making that decision—taking the time to do research, asking questions, being in a conversation with your loved one, and visiting a variety of senior living communities—has probably taken up the majority of your thought life and emotional energy recently.
Now that you know where your loved one is going, you may be surprised to discover that the journey is not over. There is a whole new set of questions to ask and plans to create and execute.
But you don’t need to worry. We’ve helped many, many families make a successful transition from home to senior living community, and have put together a list of tips to help your loved one’s transition be as smooth and successful as possible.
1. Create a Plan
As the saying goes, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” To make your loved one’s move to senior living a success, carefully consider all of the details that will go into his or her transition. But don’t do it all on your own. Take the time to converse with your loved one about his or her preferences to ensure they continue to feel as in control as possible.
Take time to discuss the following questions with your loved one:
Will they need to sell or rent their current home?
If so, you will need to factor the time it takes to do so into your plan, especially if there are specific home projects you’ll need to complete beforehand.
How big is their current home?
This will help you get a close estimate of how long it will take to pack up the house. Professional movers typically estimate about one day per room.
- If your loved one currently lives in a 1 bedroom apartment with a shared kitchen and living room, you can safely estimate that it will take about two days to pack.
- If your loved one lives in a 4 bedroom home with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and den, you can anticipate taking at least a full week to pack the home (Don’t forget the garage in your estimate!).
You’ll also want to factor in time for sorting through sentimental items, which can take longer than basic packing.
How big is their new living space (and what do they want to bring)?
It is important to know this for two reasons:
- First, it will allow you and your loved one to realistically decide what they can bring with them to their new living space. It may not be large enough for their living room sofa, but perhaps it will be enough space for a favorite recliner or bookshelf.
- Second, it will allow you and your loved one to process through what they want to do with items they will need to pass along, either through donations, estate sales, or as gifts. Many people moving to senior living communities mark what they will keep with them, and then invite children or friends to walk through their home to take favorite or sentimental items before donating or selling the rest.
This is also motivating as it will help them begin to sort through items sooner rather than later. Many experts recommend taking it slowly, and going one room at a time.
What is your moving timeline?
Your senior living community may have a required start date. Renting or selling the current home may also create a required start date. However, this is not always the case, and your loved one may even want to move earlier than the last possible date. If at all possible, let your loved one set his or her moving date.
Once you have your moving date, you can count back the estimated number of days you will need to pack. You’ll also want to leave a cushion for cleaning after the move, and for any projects that may need to happen. Finally, if possible, give yourself some cushion so you can set up your loved one’s new space as much as possible before they move in.
Once you have a plan, you’ll be able to move forward with confidence to settle your loved one into his or her new home well.
2. Sort the Logistics
As the saying goes, “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it is the grain of sand in your shoe.” Often, the little logistics in a move are the things that become the most stressful and exhausting part. To help your loved one (and yourself) avoid this stress, sort any logistics you can ahead of time.
How will you pack and move your loved one’s things?
Are you planning to do this work on your own, or will you ask family and friends to help? Will you hire movers? Be sure to check with you senior living community: most offer some form of packing or moving service to help ease the stress of this transition.
Get important documents in order (and shred the rest).
There are several important documents you will want easily accessible and protected when your loved one moves. Consider buying a safe or miniature filing system to help your loved one organize and make safe all important documents. This is also a great time to help your loved one shred or recycle any papers or documents they’ve been holding on to but really don’t need anymore.
Sort medications and transfer prescriptions.
While you may have been helping your loved one keep track of medications, your loved one’s senior living community staff will help them with this from now on. They may have a checklist or system they recommend to help you transfer this responsibility. Additionally, you’ll want to transfer all of your loved one’s regular prescriptions to a pharmacy close to the senior living community, if the community doesn’t offer this service on campus. They may have a pharmacy they recommend; be sure to ask before you complete this task.
Transfer mail and update addresses.
The postal service makes this incredibly easy on their website these days, but you’ll also want to ensure you change addresses in other places, including:
- Social Security Administration
- Your loved one’s insurance provider
- Your loved one’s banks and other financial institutions
- Magazines, newspapers, or other subscription services
- Favorite online shopping sites
- Clubs or organizations
Additionally, your loved one may want to send out fun postcards to friends and family to announce their new address. If possible, coordinate with family members and close friends so that your loved one receives fun letters and cards congratulating them on the move once they start their time at the senior living community.
3. Make Your Move to Senior Living
Once you have all your plans in place, it’s important to think about the move itself. After you have everything packed and ready to go, what are you going to do? Here are a few ideas to consider:
Go to some events.
The few weeks leading up to your loved one’s move, take time to go to some of the events hosted by your loved one’s new senior living community. Go with them so they’re not alone, but help them meet people to begin to make friends and get to know their new neighbors even before they move.
Move things in before they arrive.
If it wouldn’t make your loved one feel powerless, do your best to get all of their things moved in before they arrive so when they walk in, they can feel right at home without experiencing the stress of unpacking and finding a place for things.
Make it feel like home.
Ensure your loved one has all of the things from home that will allow them to feel safe and secure: favorite family photos, their bedding and favorite pillow, fresh flowers or houseplants, a fridge stocked with their favorite foods, the TV remote at hand and already tuned to their favorite channel.
Get there early in the day.
Things almost always look best in the morning and hardest at dark. Getting there early allows your loved one to settle in and even participate in the activities the living center offers that day. Do your best to stay with them until bedtime. Many living centers allow overnight guests for the first few nights to help new residents get settled.
Prepare for a range of emotions.
Even though your loved one might be excited about the move, there will still be times when they mourn their previous way of life. This is natural. Create space for them to safely share how they feel. Again, try to arrange notes, calls, or visits from family and friends in the first few days and weeks.
While no move ever goes perfectly, if you have a plan and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help your loved one transition smoothly to their new senior living community, you will be successful and your loved one will feel your love and care.
If you aren’t quite to the moving stage yet and want to learn more, give us a call to schedule a tour today. Our experts are on hand to answer your questions (and even give you a few more tips for the big move). We’d love to help you and your loved one begin the journey together.