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How to make the transition easier when moving your elderly parent out of their home

Moving sucks.  No matter your age.  It’s such a pain go through all your belongings, determine what to keep and what to get rid of, pack it all, figure out where everything should go in the new place, struggle to live out of boxes for a while, and then try figure out over the next several months where the heck all your stuff ended up.  Imagine having to do all that when you didn’t even want to move in the first place.  Or when you just lost your spouse of 65 years.  Or when you feel like you’re family has turned against you.  That’s what a lot of older adults are facing when they have to move out of their homes.


Over the last month we’ve detailed how to know when your aging parent is no longer safe to live alone in their home and what options there are when that’s the case.  If you’ve determined that getting extra support in their home is not enough and moving is a must, then here are some tips on how to make the transition easier when moving your elderly parent out of their home.


Put yourself in their shoes


Recognize what Emotions your loved one is experiencing.  These might include any of the following:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Resentment
  • Overwhelm
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of Control
  • Anxiety


Many of these emotions are caused by not knowing what to expect.  Click here to learn more about a “trial run” in assisted living to decrease the fear of the unknown.



Get prepared

There are many things you can do ahead of time to make the move easier.

  • Find out if pets can come.  If not, can they visit?
  • Have the doctor write a prescription for anti-anxiety medication if needed.
  • Refill other prescriptions in advance to ensure that the facility can have them all sorted and ready to go when your loved one moves in.
  • Measure the room to determine what furniture to bring and how to set it up.
  • Consider Hiring a “Move Manager”
    • A senior move manager is to your elderly parent as a wedding planner is to a bride.  They help to make moving the most comfortable, safe, and productive experience possible.  They will actually pack up your loved one’s belongings, transport them, and get everything set up so that it looks like home when your loved one arrives.  Everything will be put away, décor will be set up, the bed will be made, etc.
    • Click here to visit the website for the National Association of Senior Move Managers.



Do’s and don’ts during the move



Keep a notebook on you.  You’ll need to take a lot of notes like names of people at the new facility and things you want to make sure are not left behind at your loved one’s home.

If you choose not to hire a move manager then at least consider hiring professional movers.  The whole process is stressful enough without having to do all the backbreaking lifting.

Make sure that all the boxes are properly labeled so it’s not such a struggle to find things.

Pack an overnight bag for the 1st 24 hours to decrease stress.

Do all this while your elderly loved one is otherwise occupied.  Watching all the logistics will likely only stress them out more.  This is especially true if they are reluctant to move in the first place.

Make sure that the facility is ready to receive your loved one as soon as they get there.  They can have some activities planned to keep your loved one busy.  You don’t want them sitting around for 24 hours with nothing to do but commiserate.

Make sure that the new room is all set up when your loved one arrives.  They’ll be more comfortable going to sleep that night if they see their own pictures on the wall and they have their own pillow and bedspread.



Don’t let the moving company handle any of the sentimentals.  You need to do that yourself, just in case.  Wouldn’t it be awful if your mother’s favorite trinket got broken in the move?

Don’t try to empty the whole house.  Take only the necessities as well as a few decorative and sentimental items.

Don’t sell the house right away if you have any other option.  It’s important that your loved one knows that the house is still there if things don’t work out in their new facility.  Plus if they decide that they want something else out of the house later, it will be right there waiting for them.

If you’re in a situation where your elderly loved one is very upset about moving, don’t apologize for the move!  You’re not sorry, you only acted the way that you felt was best.  Nobody chooses this type of move for their loved one when staying home would be safe option.  I know this one sounds weird, but it’s very important!  If they won’t drop it, simply say “I love you dad.  We’ll talk later” and excuse yourself.


What to do after the move

Visit often, but keep it brief.  If you can’t visit then have a set time that you call or video chat.  Encourage them to participate in the daily activities in the facility rather than spending all their time with you.

Stay in constant communication with the staff at the facility as well.  This is the best way to ensure that your loved one is being well taken care of.  Ask questions.  For example, if your mom is supposed to have her blood sugar and blood pressure checked daily, then ask the staff what the readings were from time to time.  If the staff doesn’t know, then something’s up.

Help your loved one update their address for mailing and banking purposes as well as for their insurance and voter’s registration.

Most importantly, be patient.  It will take your loved one a while to feel at home, but they’ll eventually get there.  If you’re lucky, within days they’ll be all settled in and saying “why did I wait so long to move here?”


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