Moving is always a challenge, and if you're helping your parents or other loved ones to move, a few other stresses are often added to the process. Whether your parents are moving into an assisted living community or just downsizing for a move to independent living, following this helpful guide can help smooth every step in the process.
Take a look at our exclusive moving guide to help make moving your parents a little easier.
Stage 1: Prep and Paperwork
- Call your insurance agent to make any needed changes in your policies.
- Pay deposits and confirm moving date with new facility.
- Arrange for disconnection of all utilities. Think about phone, electricity, gas, water, internet, cable TV, trash pickup. Check with the new facility to see if you need to make private arrangements for any utilities.
- 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.
- File change-of-address notifications. Start with the post office. Also file change of address with Social Security, VA, pensions, annuities, mail-order pharmacies, banks, credit cards, etc..
- Move important paperwork to a safe place. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, bank and credit card info, passports, tax records, medical records — Put them all in a safe deposit box or a safe carrying box that you can keep separately.
- Measure your parent's new living space.
- Create a floor plan. Once you figure out which furniture you can fit comfortably into the space, you have the information you need to decide which pieces to keep.
- Make arrangements for your parent's pets. If your parent is taking pets to the new home, consider leaving the pet with a friend or in a kennel for the stressful days immediately around the move.
- Find out what your parent needs to bring — and what they don't. If your parent 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, they may be more limited in what they bring. Ask the new facility if they need to bring:
- Their bed
- Other furniture
- Shower curtain
- Clothes hangers
- Choose a moving company.
- Make all the financial and scheduling arrangements. Make sure your chosen moving date is acceptable to the facility your parent's moving to. (Remember to confirm with them the week before the move.)
Stage 2: Decluttering and Letting Go
- Purchase all the packing supplies you need. Start with boxes (and more boxes), bubble wrap, packing tape. Don't forget special boxes for artwork and dishes.
- Have a serious, heartfelt talk with your parent about the move. Even if it's their choice, there are emotional effects associated with any move. And if they'd prefer to stay in their own home but it's not the right choice any more, the move may be tougher for them to deal with. Ask gently about what they might be apprehensive about, and see if you can take any steps to calm their fears.
- Talk to your parent about what to keep and what to give away. This is always a tough discussion, so start early. Consider going room by room or category by category. Try to honor your parent's decisions as much as possible, and go out of your way to make sure that items they care deeply about (you might be surprised at what they are) go with them to their new home.
- 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; 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 help provide income for your parent? If your parent currently rents their home, make sure you give notice at the right time.
- 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's not around, if possible.
- Start packing in the rooms your parent uses 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.
- 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.
Stage 3: Packing, Packing, Packing
- Pack an "Open me first" box or suitcase. This should contain your parents' toiletries, a couple of changes of clothing, and anything else they might need to feel comfortable before all the unpacking is completed. Also pack linens in box that you'll carry yourself.
- Sort the things your parent is taking vs. not taking. If your parent is moving to assisted living, they may have limited space and aren't likely to need much. Here are the must-haves for assisted living (plus anything in the above "what to bring" list that the facility has told you they won't supply:
- 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, mementoes, etc.
- Cellphone, computer, chargers, and other necessary electronics
- Alarm clock
- 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, charity, etc.) to simplify the move.
Stage 4: The Move Itself
- Carry the valuables and breakables yourself. Before the movers arrive, carry all the boxes with valuables, breakables, or 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, box cutters.
- Set up the bed first. This way, your parent has a comfortable place ready for them to relax after the stress of the movie.
- Second level of unpacking: Clothing, bathroom items, and mementoes. 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 mementoes 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.
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.
Review our other articles on helping a loved one transition to senior living:
- Helping a Loved One Transition into Independent Living
- How to Support Your Parent Who Just Moved into an Assisted Living Community
- Downsizing for a Move to Assisted Living
- 5 Ways to Handle Your Parent's House After They Move Out
For more resources on senior moving, click here.