Whether your parent is transitioning to an assisted living community, moving into your home, or downsizing to a senior apartment, these six tips can help you plan.
1. Delegate moving responsibilities
Many seniors have spent their lives collecting meaningful possessions. If your loved one is downsizing, they’ll have to leave things behind.
Start small. Trying to deal with an entire move at once can feel overwhelming, especially when that move involves possessions acquired over a lifetime. Suggest your loved one start with a room with low sentimental value, such as a bathroom or guest suite. This will help them ease into the moving process with a clear sense of accomplishment.
Help make tough decisions. Unimportant things can seem essential if your loved one has been in their house for years. Take time to help your parent decide which things they own that are no longer useful or don’t bring them joy. Offer to help sort items into “give away” and “keep” piles, and gently suggest changes. Donating well-loved items to charities can bring a sense of moral purpose that makes letting go of things easier.
Gift to family and friends. It’s easier to give away items when they’re going to a good home. If a prized possession just can’t fit in their new space, see if a family member or friend will accept it.
2. Explore using senior relocation services
If you can’t be with your loved one during their moving prep, seek expert help. While family and friends are often willing to help load and unload, it’s often worth hiring help on moving day. As an example of expert help,senior move managersare companies that specialize in relocating, downsizing, and organizing aging individual’s possessions.
Hire an expert. An outside expert, such as a senior move manager, can help take the edge off the emotional aspect of moving. Even if you’re available to help your elderly parent move, having a third party to help make tough decisions can reduce tension and family arguments.
Find a company that focuses on seniors. The National Association of Senior Move Managers hires professionals with backgrounds in gerontology, social work, health care, psychology, and project management to provide all the resources for a seamless move.
Get help for after the move. Many senior relocation services also partner with companies who can help with after-move processes such as cleaning, staging, estate sales, and donations.
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3. Plan moving transportation around your elderly loved one’s needs
Many older adults can’t withstand a long road trip without assistance or stops, while others may require full-service medical transport.
Plan on extra travel time. Multiple stops for your loved one could extend your overall travel time. Ask regularly if your loved one needs to stretch their legs or make pit stops on long rides.
Consider mobility. If flying is the best option, book nonstop flights for those with mobility issues. Contact the airline in advance with special requests such as boarding assistance, curb-to-gate escort, or special seating accommodations. Inform your loved one about safety protocols if they haven’t flown in a while.
Add security for medical transit. If your aging relative needs extra help, look into senior-focused transportation companies that offer non-emergency medical transit designed to move people with extra needs, such as oxygen tanks and wheelchairs. Some companies even provide transport with beds and registered nurse attendants, though these services can be pricey.
4. Handle health care ahead of the move
If moving elderly parents to a new city, you’ll likely need to help them find new health care providers. Do your research, get referrals from their current doctors, and try to set appointments soon after their arrival to avoid long waiting lists.
Work with a care manager. A geriatric care manageris familiar with local healthcare providers, in-home care agencies, and volunteer resources in the destination city. They can also arrange advanced medical transport for the move.
Transfer prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy of their new home. Do this before the move.
Contact insurance providers. Make sure the doctors and specialists your loved one needs in the new location are in-network and covered by their health insurance plan. Call the number on the back of their insurance card or go online for a list of in-network providers to avoid hefty fees.
5. Make the new location feel like home
Familiar possessions and arrangements can be comforting during times of transition. Give your loved one’s new space personal touches to make it feel like home.
Organize thoughtfully. If the photos on the living room wall have been in the same order for as long as you can remember, replicate the display in the new home. (Snap photos on your phone before packing up.) Arrange trinkets in the same order, and bring accents such as throw pillows, even if you have to purchase new furniture. If the kitchen is smaller, put pots and pans where you know your loved one will be able to find them.
Understand the new layout. Be sure of the new location’s dimensions ahead of time so you know exactly what will fit where. You don’t want to have to make tough decisions once you arrive. If your loved one likes design projects, encourage them to plan out the home in advance for a smoother transition.
Enjoy new opportunities. Perhaps this is the time for a new TV or that brightly colored accent wall your loved one has always wanted. Some positive updates can make a new space exciting.
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6. Talk about the benefits of your loved one’s new home
When someone has lived in one place for 30 or more years, it’s easy for them to dwell on the things they’ll leave behind. To help loved ones move forward, remind them of new opportunities that will come from their transition.
Focus on positives of the new living situation. If your loved one is moving to assisted living, emphasize that they can relax knowing most chores, like laundry, will be taken care of for them. Or, if your art-loving mom is moving to a new town, see if a local senior center offers painting classes or if a museum is looking for volunteer docents.
Re-create routines. If your parents regularly attend worship services, help them in advance to select a congregation to welcome them.
Find things that make them happy. If your loved one is moving into an assisted living community, go online to find activity calendars and point out amenities they’ll enjoy.
Moving the elderly is a daunting endeavor. Not only are emotions highly charged, but the complicated logistics of deciding how and when to conduct the move to senior living can add even more pressure to an already difficult experience. However, with these tips, your transition can go much more smoothly. Remember to reach out to your support network or even your Senior Living Advisor for encouragement.
Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom. She’s written or contributed to more than 100 articles about senior living and healthy aging, with a special focus on dementia and memory care. Before writing about seniors, she worked as an account executive for independent and assisted living facilities across the Midwest. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, where she focused on literature and media studies.
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