Moving to Assisted Living Checklist: 20 Things to Do


Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

Moving is overwhelming for anyone. When you consider a move to an assisted living facility, you add the additional strain of moving from a home, a decline in functioning, and loss of neighbors, church, and familiar surroundings. You can make this life-changing transition by planning ahead and creating as stress-free an experience as possible.

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Even with maximum assistance from family members, you may feel disoriented and sad. Ask family to help you organize and plan the steps necessary to make a move to assisted living. 

What to Pack When Moving to an Assisted Living Facility

Deciding what to pack when moving to assisted living can be a considerable challenge. In most cases, you will be moving from a much larger house to a significantly smaller room. Taking everything is not possible, which means significant downsizing and making some tough choices. A good rule of thumb is to bring the minimum of what you will need because you can always add later. Moving too much means having to move some things out, which might be disruptive. 

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1. Furniture

  • Bed: A bed might seem like an obvious choice but consider that this could also be a good time to get a new mattress and box springs. If the room is small and you have a king bed, a double might be more appropriate.
  • Couch: A couch or a couple of chairs for guests is a must. If space is limited, you might consider a love seat. Even folding chairs that can be tucked away and brought out in a pinch might work.
  • Dresser: A dresser for the bedroom for your clothes
  • A TV with cabinet: Most assisted living communities include cable as part of the monthly fee. If you have had the same TV for several years, consider upgrading. TVs are more reasonable than they were years ago, and smart TVs are very intuitive and easy for older people to use. 
  • Bookshelves: If there is room, bookshelves can be a handy place to put books, papers, and files for easy access. If you have a lot of books, select the ones that are most important to you.
  • Table: Some assisted living communities provide full kitchens in the room for residents who want to cook on occasion. Having a table for those meals is essential. Even if there isn’t a kitchen, a table is great for writing cards, paying bills, and placing things that need immediate access or attention.
  • Google Home or Alexa: You might initially think this is too complicated or unnecessary, but a device like Google Home can enhance your life once set up. The smart speaker feature alone allows you to play music on demand, ask questions, get a weather report, and more. Ask a grandchild to help you set it up or staff at the assisted living facility are usually happy to help. 
  • Nightstand with lamp: A nightstand with a lamp is not just convenient, it is also a safety feature. When you get up at night to use the bathroom, you can turn on the light without having to get up in the dark. Get some plug-in night lights if they aren’t already installed in the room.

2. Clothing

You could have a lot of clothing. Take this opportunity for you and your family to assess what to bring and what to donate or store. A move might be a good time to buy some new clothes that are fresher and give you a feeling of starting new.

  • Casual dress: You might find that people dress a bit more formally for dinner or activities in many assisted living communities. Even though you may notice people dressing a bit for meals, it is not unusual to see people wearing casual walking shoes or even sneakers.
  • Comfortable everyday: Comfortable clothes for everyday lounging. 
  • Pajamas and bathrobe: Bring comfortable pajamas and a bathrobe in case of emergency or getting out of the shower.
  • Winter clothes: If you live in a seasonal climate, warm clothes will be necessary. Trips to see family, doctor’s appointments, and outings require proper clothing to keep warm during cold days. Don’t forget a hat and gloves, rainwear and an umbrella.
  • Exercise clothes: Most assisted living communities have exercise, yoga, and other classes. Bring comfortable clothing for these classes along with sneakers. 

3. Kitchen items

Even assisted living communities without a full kitchen might have a microwave and a small fridge. Bringing the basics in case you want to order out, make your own coffee or tea or have a beverage will help you feel comfortable and give you flexibility. There might be times when you aren’t feeling up to going to the dining room.

  • Cups for making coffee or tea
  • Plates or paper plates plus utensils: Bring the basics like silverware, a knife, and a can opener
  • Snacks: Non-perishable snacks or fresh fruit can help keep you well-nourished when the dining room isn’t open. 
  • Napkins
  • Plastic containers for keeping leftovers
  • Small refrigerator: If the assisted living facility doesn’t offer a fridge in the room, having a small one can allow you to keep perishables cold. 

4. Miscellaneous and personal items

Determining what personal items to bring can be challenging since you could have an attachment to a wide range of items. Again, try and pack only what is most important, and you can add later if there is room.

  • Pictures and photos: Pictures and family photos bring comfort and connection. 
  • Calendar and address book: Unless you are tech-savvy enough to have a smartphone, a calendar is essential for keeping track of appointments. Many older adults have a small address book with their contacts, friends, and family member’s phone numbers.
  • Phone: If a smartphone isn’t an option, purchase a simple cell phone even if there is a phone in the room. Cell phones are portable and you will be glad you have one.
  • Bedding: Extra sheets, pillowcases, and a couple of bedspreads- one for summer and a thicker one for winter
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, brush, nail care items, soap, towels, washcloths, shampoo, and toilet paper, etc. Amazon can be a convenient way to order essentials and have them delivered to your door if you don’t drive. 
  • Plants: If you enjoy plants, you may not be able to bring several, but one or two can be comforting. You can always add more later if you choose.
  • Hearing aids and mobility equipment: Don’t forget your hearing aids, dentures, and a walker or cane if you use these.

What Else Do You Have to Do Before You Move to an Assisted Living Facility?

There is a lot to do before moving to an assisted living facility because you are leaving one home for another. To make the experience as stress-free as possible, by following our steps to make sure you have everything covered. 

5. Downsize

You have the list of items to bring, but that is just one step. If you are moving from a home you own, you might be selling it. Some people prefer using a senior moving specialist who can help you decide what to bring, what to store, and if you want to have an estate sale.

Label all of the boxes that go to assisted living or pick a room in your home to organize the items you decide to bring. If you are unsure about what to bring and not bring, rent a storage unit to keep the things you might use later or give to your kids or grandkids. No matter how you choose to downsize your home, make sure it is the right choice for you.

6. Secure your home

If your home is to remain empty while selling it or making other arrangements, make sure it is secure. Don’t leave valuables or personal information in the house. Give those items to a family member for safe-keeping. 

7. Arrange for a moving company

Secure the services of a reliable, insured moving company. If you have the financial resources, most moving companies will pack your items for you. If you can, arrange for a family member to receive the items at your assisted living room and help you unpack. The moving company will put together your bed and place items where you want them, so have a plan in mind of where you want everything to go.

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8. Forward your mail

Contact the post office to file a forwarding address to your room at the assisted living. 

9. Cancel utilities

Cancel your utilities only if the home isn’t going up for sale. You will also want to make sure to arrange any yard care before moving to assisted living. 

10. Pet care

Most assisted living communities allow pets of a specific size as long as you can adequately care for them. However, if you have a larger dog or multiple pets, you will need to arrange other care options for them.

11. Advance directives and end-of-life wishes

If you haven’t done this already, now is a good time. Most assisted living facilities require advance directives, so get with your family to put these documents in place and make sure the appropriate people have copies. 

What Shouldn’t You Pack When Moving to an Assisted Living Facility?

There are certain items that you shouldn’t pack to move to assisted living. If in doubt, store in an accessible place to get later. 

12. Medications

An assisted living facility will store, manage, and dispense medicines. Most facilities prohibit keeping drugs in your room.

13. Throw rugs

Throw rugs are a trip hazard. Leave them behind if you can. Inside a bathroom, make sure you use a rug that grips the floor.

14. Valuables

Most assisted living facilities are secure, but thefts can occur, so better to leave your valuables in a safe or with family members. This includes expensive jewelry or large sums of cash.

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15. Too many kitchen items

Although you imagine yourself cooking more than you probably will, just bring the essentials, the assisted living facility will provide meals and most snacks. 

16. Too much stuff

If you bring too much, it will just be in your way. Clutter and furniture will make it hard to get around and can increase your fall risk. Start with a little and add things as you see that you need them.

What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Moving to Assisted Living?

Avoiding mistakes when moving to assisted living is a good goal, but sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Try to stay flexible and don’t panic. Things will work out, just perhaps not exactly as you planned. 

17. Not asking for enough help

If you are a fairly independent older adult, you may want to manage the move to assisted living yourself. Avoiding asking for help because you don’t want to bother others could be a mistake. If your family offers to help you organize and move, gladly accept the assistance. Everyone needs help when it comes to moving.

18. Poor planning

Leaving important details until just before you move could be stressful. Do as much pre-planning as you can so that the transition goes smoothly. For example, not contracting with a moving company well before your move could leave you scrambling to find a company that will move you on the day you want. Use your calendar to list all the details that need to happen with a time frame for each task. That way you won’t forget something important. 

19. Underestimating the stress of a move

After a move to assisted living, you will wear yourself out. Make sure you get plenty of rest. You don’t have to unpack everything in a day. Give yourself time to adjust. Call friends and family for support if you feel overwhelmed and lonely.

20. Isolating

After the move, you may want to hide out in your room. Resist the urge to isolate. Join in on meals, activities, and special events as soon as you can. Meet your neighbors and reach out to other residents. It will be easier to start early to engage with people than to wait until later.

A Stress-Free Move to Assisted Living

A completely stress-free move to assisted living might not be possible, but you can make it easier by following our steps. Give yourself more time than you think you need to adjust and make the experience a happy and secure one.

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