Moving to Assisted Living Checklist: 19 Things You’ll Need to Pack

Contributing writer, former long-term care admissions counselor and social worker

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There are very few people who will say that moving is fun. Moving a loved one into a long-term care facility is no different, but can be a unique experience in itself.

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Assisted living facilities vary across the country but each one aims to provide a place for senior citizens to successfully continue to maintain their independence while offering help and oversight. 

Many seniors have lived in their homes for decades and figuring out how to downsize into a one-bedroom or studio apartment may feel impossible. 

Deciding what to pack and what not to pack before moving day is a necessary task. The more you’re prepared, the less likely you will be making the tough decisions on the spot. The following list can help you figure out what to ditch and what to bring.

What You Should Pack if You’re Moving to Assisted Living

The rooms in assisted living facilities vary in size and do not all come fully furnished, so touring and asking questions before moving day is a must. 

During your tour, take some measurements of the room and ask what furniture comes with it. Some facilities will have a TV, bed, dresser, refrigerator, etc. while others do not. Ask if the resident will be provided with a refrigerator, bed, any locked drawers, and if they can have a microwave or other small appliances.

Furniture

The following list of furniture is suitable for a facility and is okay to bring. As mentioned, make sure it will fit correctly and if it’s good to go, feel free to move it on in.

  • Bed: Bring in the bed the resident is most comfortable with! Some facilities allow for a hospital bed which can provide an easier way for the resident to get in and out with bars on either side. If the resident prefers their own bed and it fits in the new room, they should be able to bring in that as well. 
  • Recliner: An absolute must-have for many seniors is a comfortable recliner that allows for easy reclining. Recliners allow for putting your feet up, which can help with many age-related health issues. Many recliners are made for seniors and make it easy to get out of them. 
  • Other seating: A couch or other chairs are important to allow for visitors. Some residents may be prone to isolation and loneliness. With a move to any new place, it’s good to have the ability to host visitors, whether they are friends, family, or fellow residents.
  • Television: As mentioned, some facilities provide a television, as having a television in the room gives residents an easy way to get their daily news, weather and watch programs they enjoy. 
  • Wall decor: It’s important to make their new apartment their own. While you’ll want to check with the facility regarding what adjustments can be made, an easy way to warm up a new place is to cover the walls in photos and artwork. 
  • Table: Tables are a communal space where people gather to eat, play games, or for the resident to use for writing and other creative projects. It’s also a good place to set things out for the day ahead or the next morning.

Clothing 

Depending on the facility there may be a large space for clothing or not much room at all. Regardless, you may need to cover all four seasons and make sure they feel comfortable, especially since this will become your loved one’s new residence.

  • Everyday clothes: Everyday staples are necessary, in particular whatever the resident feels most comfortable in and can get on and off by themselves. 
  • Pajamas or robe: Sleep clothes and a robe in case they would need to leave the room in an emergency in the middle of the night. Robes are also great for comfy lounging.
  • Jacket: Even with a new residence, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be inside all the time. Making sure to have warm sweaters, long shirts, and outerwear for cold months outdoors is necessary for anyone who is moving somewhere new.
  • Formal wear or fancy clothes: Some facilities may have special dinners, celebrations, and opportunities to wear nicer clothes. Make sure your loved one has some nicer options just in case.
  • Seasonal: Perhaps the facility or residence may have some holiday-themed parties, so including a Christmas sweater and other similar clothing options will give them an opportunity to get in on the fun as well.

Kitchen items

One nice perk of assisted living is having hot meals made for you. Residents are not required to cook for themselves, so kitchens in apartments are often sparse. When touring the facility before move-in day, check out what the kitchen includes. There may be a sink, some cabinets, and even a refrigerator. 

For safety reasons, many facilities do not allow anything hot or electronic in the apartment such as a microwave or a toaster. If there is no refrigerator included, that can be something to add to your list, along with the following: 

  • Snacks: Stock up the shelves with mom's favorite cookies for snacking between meals. 
  • Kitchen utensils: While most meals will be taken care of, you might have a hankering for a pizza one night. It’s worth it to stock up on plates, cups, and utensils just in case. 
  • Cleaning supplies: Housekeeping is another service provided by the facility, but having these supplies on hand can be helpful for the in-between times. If there’s a spill or even something small like just wiping down a dusty surface.

Miscellaneous 

Many items come in handy for a resident as they adjust to a new place after so many years in familiar surroundings of their family home. 

The following items are some must-have items to help with the transition period. 

  • Detailed date clock: Residents benefit from large red font clocks that not only say the time but also say the date and time of day (morning, afternoon, night). This clock can remind anyone of what time of day it is and the ability to read it easily. 
  • Whiteboard: A whiteboard is a great way for family, staff and the resident to write any important information. They can write down for example who has visited recently, when the next appointments are, activity days, and more. 
  • Voice-activated speaker: Technology is integrating more and more into senior living communities, providing ease of use and more access to the internet. Providing your loved one with a voice-activated speaker can allow them to use voice commands to find out the time, weather, call people, play music and more. 
  • Phone or address book: Residents do get lonely. If they don’t have a cell phone, making sure they have access to the phone numbers and addresses to their loved ones is important so they feel they can contact who they want to whenever they’d like.
  • Hobby materials: Just because you’re moving to a new place doesn’t mean you have to stop doing everything you like. Anything you enjoy doing like sewing, puzzles, coloring, reading...bring it along. 
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What You Won’t Need to Bring to an Assisted Living Facility

When cleaning out your elderly parent’s home, you will come across so many odds and ends and the overwhelming majority of it all will not make it to the assisted living facility. Go with the phrase “less is more.”

When going through seemingly endless amounts of clothes, keepsakes, photos, and other belongings, consider if they are useful or necessary. In many cases, some extra things are better kept in a storage locker and not in a small apartment at your loved one’s new assisted living residency.

  • Large collections: If your loved one collects stuffed animals or anything that can take up a significant amount of space, make sure to compromise in bringing a small selection. Most facilities will feel smaller to any new resident, so only bring the most essential. On the other hand, it’s important to bring all the things that make them feel happy and at home, so be sure to bring a little bit of what makes them happy! 
  • Rugs: If you can, skip the rugs. As mentioned above, some facilities come fully furnished, and rugs may be a bit too extra. In addition, rugs can be an additional hazard to a senior residence and may be more trouble than they are worth.
  • Expensive jewelry: There is no need to bring expensive jewelry, however this can be a tough one to impose on your loved one. If there are locked drawers at the facility, it may be a bit more secure. However, it may be better to keep particularly expensive items of jewelry in a safety deposit box at a bank or with a loved one elsewhere.
  • Most electronics: As discussed before, it’s important to understand the regulations your facility follows. Many facilities do not allow microwaves and other electronic items in the kitchen. Other things include extension cords and hair dryers. If you are curious about what to bring, make sure to ask.
  • Medications: Once your loved one is moved in, medication management is usually turned over to nursing. That means there is no medication administration they do not know about, including any preventative care medication like ibuprofen or calcium carbonate for a stomach ache.

Just Make It Homey

During any large move in life, it is hard to assess what is worth bringing and what is worth removing, throwing out, or putting in storage. Stick to the necessities and what your loved one cares about most. Ask questions and get an understanding of what the facility offers and go from there.

As long as you and your loved one feel good about this next stage of life, you can always add more to make things better.

Looking to read more on long-term care?  Read our guide on popular alternatives to assisted living.

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