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What Can You Bring to Assisted Living?
How to Know What to Bring in the Move to Assisted Living

The decision is final, you're moving to a senior housing community.

Even though it's set in stone, you may wonder about how much help you'll need and will it be given, will you make new friends, and will my family and friends come to visit? It's common to worry about these general concerns.

The answer is yes for each one. Assisted living gives you elements of a built-in social life, so making friends is the bonus. The care staff of the facility is available anytime you need personal assistance, and they encourage family and friends to visit frequently. They know how important family and friends are to residents.

What to Move to the Assisted Living Facility

What to move to assisted living

Once you've selected the facility; the downsizing and move process begins. Before rummaging through personal items; furniture, family treasures and keepsakes, and photos, be sure you've measured the room or apartment before moving. Some facilities give draw out to scale floor plans that help you calculate where the furniture best fits. Also, ask for a copy of their packing list too.

Find out what's provided in the apartment or room, so you don't end up with surplus items and duplicates. Ask if there are rules against anything -- it's not uncommon for communities to prohibit kitchen items like coffee makers or expensive necklaces and rings. Facilities recommend labeling every item and clothes with the owner's name.

Talk with residents who live at the facility now. Ask how they determined what to bring to the new home. Since they've experienced the move, they're your best resource. Some residents suggest that large pieces of furniture be left, sold, put in storage, or given away because the new apartment is smaller than you think.

A study by the Center for Disease Control found that 73% of the facilities allow residents to bring large furniture such as a couch, bed, or dining room table to the new apartment.

Can residents bring large furniture such as a couch, bed, or dining room table?

Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Bring a Personal Style

Current residents, those who've been through the move process, suggest you bring smaller possessions that give your new apartment a "home-like" feel to ease the transition. Things like favorite furniture, beloved collectibles, and treasured family photographs help make the change a little easier. Remember not to bring so much that it poses a safety risk to your balance and mobility.

Know where you place and store personal items in cabinets and drawers, and label them if necessary. You will feel comfortable when you can quickly find what you need.

Decorate according to personal style so it reflects who you are and how you've always lived. Some facilities allow residents to paint rooms. Choose colors that enhance warmth and friendliness. Add your artwork, lamps, throw pillows, bedspreads and window treatments to add personal flair.

The Survey of Residential Care Facilities by the Center for Disease Control found that 97% of the facilities allow residents to bring small furniture.

Can residents bring small furniture such as a desk, bookcase, chair, lamp, or small table?

Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Bring a Pet

Pets in assisted living

Assisted living communities know that the bond between a pet and a resident is very strong. Check with the assisted living facility to find out if they're on board with you bringing a pet.

Some services find ways to help residents care for pets by providing a pet care service to walk, feed, groom and care for the pet if the resident is unable to. A Pet Care Coordinator can help with pet care by scheduling vaccines and veterinary care.

Pets are fun for other residents too and offer excellent cardiovascular exercise from walking the dog. Pet-petting, brushing, and feeding a pet helps residents stay engaged and gain a sense of being needed--a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Unconditional love and acceptance given by pets lessen loneliness and eases difficult feelings during a move. Having a pet around lowers stress, increases mental stimulation and renews interest in life.

When the Center for Disease Control asked Residential Care Facilities if residents can have a personal pet such as a cat, dog, or bird that lives at the facility, 54% of them reported a yes.

Are residents ever allowed to have a personal pet such as a cat, dog, or bird tha lives at the facility?
Responses of don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Bring a Car

Assisted living facilities want you to feel at home so; they do their best to accommodate a vehicle. They'll even help you to remove snow and ice from the windshield in the winter months when needed.

Since most facilities offer free transportation, you may not need a car. If you do bring one, the service requires a copy of your current driver's license and auto insurance on file with them.

When asked if residents can bring a car to the Residential Care Facility, 88% reported providing a reserved space to the owner.

Is there space at this facility for residents to park their car?
Responses of refusal (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

What Not to Bring to Assisted Living

  • Lots of curios or figurines because of limited surface space
  • Throw rugs or area rugs because they're a tripping hazard
  • Chairs on wheels
  • Expensive and seldom worn jewelry
  • Lots of mugs, appliances, bathrobes, coats, handbags
  • Boxes of stored items

Everyone copes differently with moving out of a familiar home into a new one. Have patience with yourself as you go through emotional feelings. If you've put a lot of the personal belongings in storage or given them to family members, you may miss having the items around at first. It's normal so don't be too hard on yourself.

Be assured that the assisted living staff is ready to help you with the move and the transition from the facility. Ask questions and get help when needed, it's the best way to make the move positive.

Consider Adaptive Devices For Residents

One of the challenges that many seniors face in terms of limited mobility is discovering the best adaptive devices. Most of us are familiar with "the grabber," a mechanical claw gadget that helps folks reach things on the higher shelves in their home. It is precisely the type of device that some people need. There are others. However, that can and do many people's lives easier and, in fact, lead to greater independence.

Many of these devices are directly connected to some of the toughest things for people to deal with when it comes to their mobility. One particular device that many people use is a bathtub rail. Other suggestions like suction cups that can reposition. Older adults use them to get in and out of the tub or in the shower.

There are adaptive handrails that attach to the sofa and chairs to allow for easier transferring from the seated to standing positions. The same applies to handrails that attach to toilets as well as extended toilet seats that make the seat higher and easier to reach.

Advances in technology are making it easier for people with disabilities to do just about anything, even eating. There are special cups now that allow for the handles to position horizontally and vertically, bendable, built-up foam and even weighted utensils that allow for easier gripping, and dinner plates with deeper lips to help avoid food spilling off of the plate.

One very simple device that may seem somewhat unnecessary but is, instead, very useful is a shoehorn extender. Sometimes called a shoe valet, what this does is allows a person with limited mobility to independently get their own shoes on. It is a stiff rod with a handle at one end and a shoehorn at the other that allows for greater ease in slipping shoes on. There is another simple device with flexible handles that make putting on socks, stockings and even pantyhose much easier.

Where will My Possessions Go When I Move into Assisted Living?

Furniture is already present in the dwellings. The community can remove some of the furniture so the resident can use their own. Each facility is different and will have policies regarding their living spaces. Smaller shared rooms will require down-sizing of possessions. When dispersing belongings it is imperative that the person down-sizing keep their best interests in mind. While it's a positive experience to give away worldly belongings, moving into an assisted living home is not lifeless. Far from it. Residents live full, happy lives, not sit in an empty room!

Here are some options for how to disperse the items you won't use:

Family - Giving heirlooms to close family members is a time-honored tradition. If not for this action with items belonging to mothers, father, and grandparents (along with others), there would be no antique heirlooms today. This option allows the resident to still enjoy their possessions by being able to view them when visiting family.

Charity - Donating clothing and household items to charity will greatly reduce the amount of belongings to move. Clothing is always appreciated in church clothing closets, community outreach centers, and thrift stores. Donate household items to community outreach centers to help displaced families. Write off the donation at the end of the year.

Rummage sales - Holding a rummage sale is an excellent method of reducing clutter and making extra money. Items that do not have a high value, such as antiques, may just bring more than pocket change.

Antique houses - In some households there are antiques that are not treasured heirlooms. These possessions handed down from family members. Selling them to trustworthy business owners or putting them up for auction is lucrative. Some antiques are so valuable they could potentially pay for a large portion of ALF care for a period of time.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.