15 Tips for Transitioning to Assisted Living

When your loved one has lived in their own home for years, transitioning to an assisted living community can be intimidating. More often than not, it’s one of the biggest adjustments a senior will make in their older years. There’s no way to completely remove the worries and anxieties that come with this move. However, there are some guiding steps you can take to help ease the transition for both you and your loved one.

After speaking extensively with our members, their families and their caregivers, we’ve put together a list of tips for transitioning to assisted living.

Getting Prepared: Before the Move

Once you and your loved one have decided it’s time to transition to assisted living, there are several steps you should take to prepare. This is our best advice on preparing to move to an assisted living community:

Getting Ready to Move
  1. Choose the right community.

    Take the time to research and tour multiple assisted living communities in your area. This will help you get a sense of the social environment, dining, amenities and overall feel of each location. It’s best to start researching early on before you have an immediate need to move, since you’ll be able to take your time more with the decision. But we know this isn’t always the case. Regardless, when you visit a community, you should get the opportunity to ask their leadership, caregivers and staff any questions you may have. Here is a list of over 70 questions to ask when touring an Assisted Living Facility. Be observant of the level of cleanliness, friendliness of staff and whether residents seem content in their environment. When in doubt, trust your intuition.
  2. Research assisted living costs.

    When making your decision, be sure to get a clear understanding of each community’s pricing model. Some of them will offer true, all-inclusive pricing, which means there is a single monthly fee that covers everything. Many others will offer “levels of care pricing,” which is a tier-based program with costs that vary based on the type of care your loved one gets. Even if a community says their pricing is all-inclusive, you should still ask if your rate can change based on levels of care. If their answer is yes, then they are not truly all-inclusive. Read our article to find out more about assisted living pricing models
  3. After choosing a community, arrange a time to visit or tour it at least one more time before moving in.

    After deciding on a community, it doesn’t hurt to get even more familiar with it before moving in. If you have time for another visit, use the opportunity to explore the campus, speak with current residents, participate in a community social event or enjoy a meal in the dining room. Be sure to arrange visits with your community ahead of time, since it will allow them to plan an agenda for while you’re there.
  4. Pack efficiently and deliberately.

    First and foremost, check with your community to see if they offer packing services. Getting help with this process will go a long way in smoothing the transition to assisted living. When packing, prioritize the most important items first, and don’t stress about doing everything right away. We recommend creating lists to keep the process organized and save time. Start with essential items like toiletries, medications, clothing, bedding and furniture. After the big things are taken care of, move onto smaller items that may still be important but are stuffed away in the garage or attic. If you approach packing in a step-by-step manner, without rushing it, the task becomes far less intimidating.
  5. Make sure all logistical and “housekeeping” items are taken care of.

    Any time you make a move, whether to assisted living or somewhere else, there are logistical items that need to be taken care of. Make a plan to cancel ongoing services like cable, internet and utilities that will be provided at your loved one’s new community. Contact the postal service to have mail forwarded from their old home to their community address, and have their address updated on credit cards, bank accounts, magazine subscriptions and anywhere else it might be listed. Check with your community for help here too, since they may offer services that help with logistical items. Last but not least, keep a record of all moving expenses—they are tax deductible!
  6. Allow time for the “emotional transition.”

    No matter how prepared you or your loved one is for a move to assisted living, there still may be fears and apprehensions. No one is completely ready for this type of move, so feelings like these are completely normal. Take advantage of social circles for support, whether they be family, friends, spiritual guides, online resources or elsewhere. Talking through your fears is a great way to overcome them. Our most important piece of advice is to be patient—everyone has a different timeline for their emotional transition, and that’s okay.
  7. Set up your loved one’s new living space.

    One of the best ways to make your loved one feel at home is to make their new living space feel familiar. Arrange furniture and decorations in a similar fashion as they were in the previous home. Display sentimental items prominently, since these little things can go a long way. Make sure to contact your community about their packing, moving and unpacking services—they should be able to help with this process. Taking time to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing living space will go a long way in smoothing the transition to your new home. Before moving, we recommend checking out this Comprehensive Checklist for Moving to Assisted Living.

Getting Acclimated: The First Week and Beyond

Getting adjusted to assisted living doesn’t happen overnight. From the first day through the first week, your loved one will be very busy at their new community. Here are some tips on how they can make the most of their initial days in assisted living:

Seniors Talking
  • Get acquainted with neighbors.

    Your loved one will likely be living in an apartment with several neighbors in their hallway, on their floor or even right next door. Each person they meet has the potential to become a new friend. Encourage your loved one to introduce themselves to as many people as possible. Other members have gone through the same transition period, and they can serve as a fantastic resource and support network.
  • Familiarize yourself with community caregivers and staff.

    During the first week, your loved one will get acquainted with several staff members at the community. This includes meetings with caregivers to assess their needs and create a care plan. They will also meet with nurses, dining staff, social directors, fitness staff and others on the community leadership team. The job of the community staff is to make your loved one feel comfortable, so don’t hesitate to bring up questions you have for them at any time.
  • Spend time with loved ones.

    Be sure to visit your loved one regularly, or as often as possible. This is especially important during their first weeks at the community, since it will help them get adjusted to their new surroundings without feeling abandoned. Try to come up with a consistent schedule for visiting if you can. Sharing a meal is a great way to spend time whenever you visit. Most communities offer a range of dining options from dine-in to take-out, so check and see what’s available.
  • Get involved in community events and activities.

    One of the major benefits of assisted living communities is the social programming they offer. Make sure your loved one gets a copy of your community’s social calendar and speaks with residents about their favorite activities. Attending social events early on provides a great opportunity to learn about what’s available and get to know other residents. Over time, they will discover which activities are their favorites and have new things to look forward to on a regular basis.
  • Dine with other residents and members of staff.

    More often than not, the dining room is the center of socialization on an assisted living campus. Encourage your loved one to schedule meals with their new neighbors and connect with other residents during meals. Members of community staff are often glad to share a meal as well, and they have the potential to become great friends.
  • Get involved in a club or group.

    Most assisted living communities have special groups focused on specific hobbies, interests or values. Examples might be a playing cards group, gardening club, book club, bible study or resident council. Your loved one should speak with the community social director as well as other members to discover what’s out there and see what they might be interested in joining.
  • Take advantage of fitness opportunities.

    Maintaining your loved one’s overall wellness is important, and their physical health should be taken into consideration. Most communities have activities that engage the residents in recreational activities, so encourage your loved one to participate. Staying active is not only good for their physical health, but it can help them feel more mentally sharp, happy and upbeat.
  • Stay involved in life outside the community.

    Joining an assisted living community doesn’t mean your loved one’s outside life gets put on pause. They’ll still have the freedom to go about their business where they like, when they like. Many communities offer transportation services for trips to the doctor, grocery store and other common needs. For trips that aren’t covered by the community directly, your loved one can find transportation through a home care or ride sharing service.

We know that no single piece of advice is the magical answer for easing the transition to assisted living. However, if you use the above tips as guidance, it will go a long way.

For an additional resource about Senior Safety at Home, read this article by This Old House.

A Luxury Assisted Living Community

At Summit Hills of Spartanburg, South Carolina, our commitment is to help Members live Longer, Healthier, Happier lives. For more information about our community, give our sales line a call at 864-582-5561 or schedule an appointment online. Our luxury community offers assisted living as well as independent living and other care services.

Looking for assisted living somewhere else? View the complete list of our sister communities across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Connecticut and Indiana.