Resource Center / Senior Living Guides / Moving to Assisted Living: Checklist for Families

Moving to Assisted Living: Checklist for Families

If you're planning a move to an assisted living community, we've got everything you need to make sure the transition goes smoothly. From paperwork to packing and beyond, Seniorly has the ultimate one-stop checklist.

By Arthur Bretschneider Updated on Dec 26, 2023
Reviewed by Angelica P. Herrera-Venson · Reviewed on Sep 26, 2023

Getting your loved one set up in an assisted living community might feel like a huge job. Whether your parents are moving into an assisted or senior living community nearby, or just downsizing for a move to independent living, it's common to feel overwhelmed. After all, once you've picked the perfect place, there's still a whole lot to do!

But don't worry - it doesn't have to be a wild ride. We've put together this down-to-earth, easy-to-follow guide that lays out all the steps you need to tick off. From sorting out what stuff to take and what to leave behind, to making their new place feel like home, to helping them settle in - we’ve got your back all the way through this journey. Take a look at our exclusive assisted living moving checklist to help make moving your parents a little easier.

Stage 1: Prep & paperwork

Before the big move to an assisted living facility, there's a whirlwind of paperwork to prepare. From legal and financial paperwork to medical records, it's important to get things organized. While this might feel tedious, it's a crucial step to making sure that the transition to the new living arrangement is as smooth as possible. Let's make sure all your I's are dotted, and your T's are crossed!

  • Review the lease agreement: Review the terms and conditions of the lease agreement with the assisted living community. Make sure you understand what your parent is responsible for coordinating and paying for, and what the assisted living communities provide.
  • Call your insurance agent: Reach out to your parent's insurance agent to discuss the move and any potential changes to your policy. Make sure you understand if there are any changes to coverage caused by the change in primary residence.
  • Confirm your move date: Call and schedule a moving date, ensuring to plan around any special needs and considerations for your loved one. At the same time, schedule your moving company, and confirm they know they are managing a move to an assisted living community.
  • Contact utility companies: Think about phones, electricity, gas, water, internet, cable TV, and trash pickup. Check with your assisted living community to see if you need to make private arrangements for any utilities, like phone or cable.
  • For pet owners: if your loved one has a pet, this is a great time to schedule some time with other four legged friends in a kennel for the move dates. Moving day can be stressful so depending on the pet, it may make sense to find another solution that will minimize stress for everyone.
  • Change their address: Go to the post office and submit a change of address form for your parent. At the same time, assemble a list of all relevant companies that will need to know about their address change. Think about credit card companies, health care providers, their local DMV and more. If they are a veteran, don't forget to notify the Veteran's Administration office! Here's a handy change of address checklist to help you remember who to contact.
  • Plan for moving day cleaning: If you are selling a house or leaving an apartment, it may make sense to hire cleaners for the day after moving day, so that you aren't stuck going back to clean out the old place. With every move, there are small unexpected messes and personal items that are left behind, and you'll want to focus your energy on your new environment.
  • Gather your medical records: Most assisted living communities will want to understand the new resident's medical needs so they can provider better support. To provide this information, prepare a list of all current medications, dosage and schedules. It's easy to forget to take medication during a move, so this is a great way to ensure your family member has a team of people looking out for them!
  • Revisit other legal documents: This is a great time to revisit their will, power of attorney or advanced directive. Do they reflect their current wishes and situation? Do family members know about these documents and where to find them?
  • Compile a list of emergency contacts: Each senior living community will provide a form for this information in advance.
  • Move important paperwork to a safe place: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security cards, bank and credit card info, passports, tax records, and medical records; put them all in a safe deposit box or a safe carrying box can be kept separately.
  • Assemble your team: Talk to other family members to understand who wants to be involved and in what capacity. It's easy for siblings to feel left out of the process, especially when a family home is being sold and downsizing is a necessity.

Stage 2: Tackling the task of downsizing

Making the move to a senior living community means downsizing physically too. It’s about making choices - deciding what to take along and what to bid farewell to. This can be an emotional process since it involves parting ways with some familiar possessions, but with careful planning and thoughtful decision-making, it can also become a chance to reminisce and honor past memories while making space for a new living space. Here's another group of items to tackle on our "moving to assisted living" checklist.

  • Discuss what to do about your parent's current home: Your parent may be planning to sell their current home to fund the move into a new community or assisted living apartment; in this case, you can help them find an appropriate real estate agent and prepare the home for sale. If they don't want or need to sell their home, discuss the options: Will you move into it? Or the grandchildren? Will you rent it out to other residents to help provide income for your parent? If your parent currently rents their home, make sure you give notice at the right date and time.
  • Measure the new living space: This is the first - and most important - step to planning a smooth move. Make sure you know the dimensions of the room and whether or not there is any storage space offered. Measure key pieces of their furniture to ensure they will fit and to plan the layout. It may even be helpful to visit a few other resident rooms to see how others have maximized the space.
  • Find out what your parent needs to bring — and what they don't: If your family member is moving into an independent living community, chances are they'll downsize a bit but bring most of their own furniture and other belongings. If they're moving into assisted living, however, most assisted living communities provide a few items in every room. Ask about:
    • Their current bed or a hospital bed
    • Other furniture items like a dresser, small sofa or armoire
    • Linens/bedding
    • Shower curtain
    • Wastebasket
    • Clothes hangers
    • Curtains
    • TV/radio
  • Create a floor plan: Once you figure out which furniture that can fit comfortably into the space, you have the information your parent needs to decide which pieces to keep.
  • Downsize: This is often a difficult part of the process, so if you are supporting a loved one, remember to be patient. Even things like a dresser, small sofa, recliner, or side table might have significant emotional value. If you expect to have a difficult time with downsizing decisions, there are local experts who manage this part of the process. You can search for "downsizing experts" or contact a company like this one. Plan for this part of the process to take several weeks, and organize your decisions by categories. For example - you could tackle the effort by category or by room, starting with the dining room, which is likely to be fairly easy.
  • Plan estate sale: if your parent finds they have more items than they want to bring to the new community, you may also want to organize an estate sale. While many older adults are resistant to this idea, it often ends up being a great experience. They can see their items take on a new life and talk to people about the memories associated with each piece!
  • Rent a storage unit if needed: You don't have to make final decisions about family heirlooms and furniture right away. Buy some time to deal with emotions by moving items to a small storage unit.
  • Arrange for disposing of unwanted items before moving day: Take what you're planning to keep yourself, or deliver items to grandchildren or friends. A yard sale might be too much for your parent to handle, but you can sell items online easily. Arrange to have items picked up when your parent or adult children are not around, if possible.
  • Take detailed photos of everything in place: before you start packing. Don't forget the inside of closets, cabinets, and drawers. If your parent has Alzheimer's or dementia, their transition will be easier if you can recreate the layout of their old home in their new place.

Stage 3: Packing, packing, packing

Packing for a move to an assisted living community goes beyond simply putting items in a box. It’s about carefully selecting and securing cherished belongings to be part of their new home. This process requires thoughtful organization and careful handling to ensure everything arrives safely and makes the new space feel comforting and familiar.

  • Purchase all the packing supplies you need: Start with boxes (and more boxes), bubble wrap, and packing tape. Don't forget special boxes for artwork, decorative items, and dishes.
  • Start packing in the rooms your parent uses the least: If your parent is moving out of a home they've been in for years, the downsizing may be significant. Pack everything in the closets before you start disturbing the way rooms look.
  • Sort the things your parent is taking vs. not taking. If your parent is moving to an assisted living facility, they may have limited space and aren't likely to need much. Here are the must-haves for most assisted living facilities:
    • Clothing (keep items simple, comfortable, and washable)
    • Laundry basket/hamper
    • Toiletries (including incontinence supplies, if needed, as many assisted living facilities don't supply them)
    • All eyeglasses
    • Hearing aids
    • Personal items: artwork, photos, mementos, etc.
    • Cellphones, computers, chargers, and other necessary electronics
    • Alarm clock
  • Pack an "Open me first" box or suitcase: This should contain your parents' toiletries, a couple of changes of clothing, socks, pajamas, robe, and anything else they might need to feel comfortable for the first few nights before all the other unpacking is completed. You may even consider bringing a few decorative items so the room feels like home on the first night. Also, pack linens in the box that you'll carry yourself.
  • Pack valuables separately and remove from the premises: Think about things like family photos, expensive jewelry and that box of important legal and financial documents. It may be wise to store these items in a separate location so it doesn't get mixed with other boxes on moving day.
  • Pack everything that your parent is taking to the new assisted living community last: This way, they can continue to use familiar items without issue.
  • Label all packed boxes: Each label should include the box's contents and its final destination. Consider color-coding destinations (assisted living, storage, various grandchildren, family members, charity, etc.) to simplify the move.

Stage 4: Moving day


After all the planning, packing and preparing, it's finally here – moving day. This is the day when your loved one makes the transition from their current home to a new journey in an assisted living community. While it's a significant step, with a bit of organization, a dose of patience, and a dash of positivity, we can ensure it's as smooth and stress-free as possible. Here's how to make the moving day count.

  • Carry the valuables and breakables yourself: Before the movers arrive, carry all the boxes with valuables, breakables, or personal items needed within the next 48 hours to your own vehicle so you can transport them yourself (and know where they are!).
  • Walk through the old home after the movers have finished: Chances are, they left something behind. Open every cabinet.
  • Take along tools and handy items for moving day: Screwdrivers to assemble furniture. Hammers and picture-hanging hardware, tape, scissors, and box cutters.
  • Set up the bed first: This way, your parent has a new space and a comfortable place ready for them to relax after the stress of the movie.
  • The second level of unpacking: clothing, bathroom items, and mementos: Unpack clothing and bathroom items first so they can find what they need for the first few days in the new home. Also, set up photos and other mementos to make the new place feel like home.

Moving can be tough for older parents, so if there's no rush - take things at their pace and be prepared to have several conversations to discuss all the details. Working through this moving guide should also help provide structure to your discussions and to the move itself.

Make the most of this move

Making the transition to an assisted living community is a big step, but with careful planning and preparation, you can help ensure a smooth move for your loved one. From understanding the costs and handling the necessary paperwork, to downsizing belongings and getting them packed up, every stage has an important role to play. While it may feel like a daunting task initially, breaking it down into manageable steps can make it less overwhelming.

written by:
Arthur%20Bretscheider 1

Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly. As a third generation leader in the senior living industry, Arthur brings both deep compassion and a wealth of practical experience to his work at Seniorly. Arthur holds an MBA from Haas School of Business and has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as a thought leader in the senior living space. Arthur is a passionate and vocal advocate for improving the lives of older adults through community, and believes strongly that structured senior living environments can positively impact the aging experience.

To learn more about Seniorly's editorial guidelines, click here.

View other articles written by Arthur

Sign up for our Healthy Aging Handbook

Seniorly’s Senior Living experts created a comprehensive handbook to help people age happily while ensuring they love where they live. Enter your email address below to receive your copy and learn more about Healthy Aging and Senior Living.*

*By submitting your email address above, you consent to receive occasional email communications from Seniorly, including educational content and tips, newsletters, and other relevant updates and offerings. You can unsubscribe at any time and we will never sell or distribute your email address to a third party. You can view our Privacy Policy here.