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Moving Out of the Family Home
Making Plans for a Move into Assisted Living

Getting older creates unwanted change; scenarios like cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's disease or dementia, death of a spouse, or a physical decline due to a chronic illness, necessitate relocating a senior loved one from a deeply rooted home.

Preparation is the key to easy transition when moving a mother or grandparent across country into your family home, or relocating both parents into an assisted living facility. No matter the circumstance, the people involved share basic concerns: We want an easy move.

Although having the "move" talks are sensitive, challenging and rarely easy, it's important to start them. Communication is key to making a successful move. Here are a few topics to discuss while making plans to move. Adult children have a tendency to believe they know what's best for an aging relative, so include them and allow the relative control and to have their say.

Openly Discuss the Move

Discuss the Move with Relative
Discuss the Move with Relative

Two most common rules that people ignore:

  1. Do not make decisions about a loved one's care without their input.
  2. Do not wait until the last-minute to discuss your relative's housing options.

Regardless of what type of care or living arrangement your parent is in need of; home care, assisted living, apartment living, it's very important that they be included in the conversation.

The Family Meeting

Having a family meeting with your parent(s), siblings, children, spouse, and other key family members allows everyone to share personal perspectives: views and concerns. Gathering the information guides the next steps. Active communication is the building block to a strong support system for the senior loved one.


Clearly define expectations of all involved: Expectations are necessary to help us make sense of the world. Clearly communicating them helps us predict the actions and reactions of others and ourselves.

  1. Be realistic and set achievable expectations
  2. Communicate the expectations, the behaviors and results needed.
  3. Get buy-in from all family members, including the person(s) moving.

When setting expectations openly discuss the needs and allow each person to give input on time and the resources needed.

  1. Does everyone know what's expected of them? Tailor the "why and what" to each individual.
  2. Do they know what to expect from you? Be candid, honest, and forthcoming.
  3. Do they know what's expected of each other? Make it short, simple, and clear.

Tips to Help Relative Adjust to the Move/the Change

Remember, asking someone to leave a home of many years will bring up fear, grief and sadness for them and you. Fear is the first response most people encounter with change: fear of meeting new people and relationships, fear of letting go of possessions, and fear of the unknown.

The feeling of fear is real. Help your relative with this frightening emotion by bringing attention to it (be aware of fear), and acknowledging it openly (talk about it), this facilitates the transition.

Give your loved ones ample time to adjust and prepare emotionally. When asked to move and alter a longtime lifestyle, emotional havoc follows. This is normal. Let them talk about the sadness, the past, and the memories shared in their home. Then include them in the planning process. This will help them regain a sense of control.

When confronted with transition, whether it's planned or not, initial responses are to run and resist! It's a survival instinct when we feel threatened. Fueled by adrenaline, the instinct creates exhaustion and feeling of overwhelm. However, there are steps to control the fear, embrace the challenge, and turn adversity into success.

Key Strategies that Make a Successful Move

Help Relative Adjust
Help Relative Adjust

Families know the move is successful when:

  • The family accomplishes moving tasks together
  • Communication is open between all members involved
  • The outcome is a relaxed and playful environment

How to Help a Loved One Adjust to the Move

  • Take a walk, bike or do another type of exercise. The point is to exert pent-up energy.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend to reduce the feeling of panic.
  • Rest. Clear the mind and do deep breathing.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay away from junk food, caffeine and sugars.
  • Take a warm bath.

Once fear and panic subside, the family can come together again and face the issues and think through solutions.

Long Distance Family Members

If you live a long way from the relative, a senior move manager may the best person to contact to spear head the transition. Senior move managers are professionals that coordinates the move. They help with finding a new residence, to downsizing, to moving and setting up a new home.

The National Association of Senior Move Managers, is a good place to find a reliable mover.

Tips when using movers:

Tips for packing and moving
Tips for packing and moving
  • Reputation is key - get referrals
  • Get written estimates - not guesstimates
  • YOU pack valuables - do not entrust outside help to pack treasures
  • Take written inventory - before - during - after. Pack early
  • Recruit Help from Friends and Family

Moving a senior loved one from their home is a big job. So, enlist friends and other family members to help. The younger family members can help out too. It may require adults to take some time off from their jobs to help out but it is vital that you recruit muscle and support.

Organize and De-clutter

Before sorting, de-cluttering and downsizing; walk through the home with everyone involved to get a clear picture of what items will make the move. How many rooms will the new residence have? Will they need furnishing? What is the square footage?

TIP: Plot out the new residence on paper, and place paper cutouts of the furniture to determine what needs to move and what does not.

  • Allow each family member select special mementos to keep.
  • Tag the furniture and items that are for sale or to donate.
  • Get each member to sort through and organize.
  • Allow your loved one and family members to reminisce. The family home represents special memories of childhood and growing up, so the emotions run deep.

If you do not have the time to downsize, or if your relative is reluctant to let go of items, the next option is a storage unit. The unit gives the relative time to decide what's needed or not needed. Later, after the move, go back to reduce storage.

Make Needed Repairs

After packing the furniture and personal items, it's time to get the home ready to sell or rent. Make the necessary repairs now rather than putting it off for later.

After maintenance, it's time to clean. The house is now ready for its next family.

How to Move

There are several things to think about before scheduling the move. Depending on the budget, distance, time and size of the move; consider which option is best for all involved, especially your loved one.

  • DIY (Do it yourself.) Before doing it yourself ask:
  • Do you feel safe driving a moving truck?
  • Who will help you pack the truck?
  • How far is the drive?
  • Who will help you on the other end?

The DIY option best suits the pocket-book. It's an option to fill with a short vacation too, but it depends on how soon the furniture needs to arrive on the other side.

If you choose this option, calculate other costs like insurance, gas, special loading/unloading equipment, and overnight hotel and food expenses.

Now it's time to think about how your parent will make the move? It's best if they avoid a road trip. So, arrange for your loved one to fly to their new home.

There are many circumstances and items to plan for, so it's best to get started early rather than waiting for an emergency event that forces a sudden eruption.

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.