daughter with senior mother

If you have a parent who’s lived happily in a spacious home for years, there’ll probably come a time when a change in living arrangements is in order. You might notice your parent has a hard time keeping up with household maintenance. A small fall—even if it doesn’t result in an injury—could be a sign that a new living situation would improve safety.

Moving an aging parent requires more than just packing up boxes, though.

“There are both physical and emotional aspects of transitioning to a new home as we age that must be addressed carefully,” said long-term care specialist Nancy Butler, author of “Above All Else: Success in Life and Business.”

Your parent may find it difficult to leave a familiar place or to go to a situation where some independence could be lost. In addition, you might need to sell, give away or store items that won’t fit into the new place.

A storage facility may prove to be a good answer to temporarily house a parent’s items.
— Rick Lauber, author of “Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians”

Follow these six guidelines to help the transition go smoothly.

1. Start Early.

If you’re considering when to bring up the topic of change, “anytime is a good time,” said Fritzi Gros-Daillon, owner of Household Guardians, a company that offers safety kits and safety consultations.

Having this conversation while your parent is in good health can make it easier to lay out a plan together.

When it comes to elderly parents, “remember it is all about them being in control, and maintaining their independence and quality of life,” Butler said. “You are only there to help.”

2. Find the Right Place.

Before making any decisions, you’ll want to look into the assisted living facilities or retirement communities in whichever areas are under consideration.

“Many assisted living facilities will set an appointment with you for a tour of the facility and to stay for lunch,” Butler said. If possible, take your parent along for the visit.

In addition to the facility’s physical amenities, check out the services offered there. “Ask what level of care is available now and in the future,” said Rick Lauber, author of “Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians” and a former caregiver for his own aging parents.

assisted living facility

Be sure to check out amenities and services at each place being considered.

3. Sort Through Stuff.

If your parent’s house is filled with furniture and other items that have accumulated over the years, you’ll likely need to go through a downsizing process while getting ready for the move. You might decide to sell some items, give them away or store them.

“A storage facility may prove to be a good answer to temporarily house a parent’s items,” Lauber said. For instance, your parent might want to pass a dining room set or other furniture along to a grandchild who’s now attending college. Or you might want to keep some items in a self-storage unit until they’re ready to be sold.

4. Create a Meaningful Space.

For seniors moving to an apartment, “try to model it after their home,” said Rita Altman, vice president of memory care and program services at Sunrise Senior Living. If your parent has a favorite room or living area, bring the furniture from it and arrange it in a similar way.

Also, ask your parent about meaningful things to take along. This might be a special photo, a favorite chair, or a vase that’s been in the family for years.

5. Schedule the Move at the Right Time.

If you’re moving your parent to a place with other residents, keep in mind that people who already live there could be disturbed by the noisiness of boxes and heavy furniture being carried in.

“Aim to move your parent into an assisted living or long-term care facility at a quieter time of day,” Lauber said. If possible, avoid moving in during residents’ meal and activity times.

6. Envision the New Life.

Various programs and activities at the new place might align with your parent’s interests. “They might get a calendar and see a musical program they would love,” Altman said.

Also, other services could boost your parent’s independence. For instance, many assisted living facilities provide transportation to theaters and shopping centers. These services can help your parent more fully enjoy living in his or her new place.

For more moving tips, visit the moving tips section of SpareFoot.com.

Rachel Hartman