Moving Into a Retirement Home

Making the transition seamless

What to know about this topic:

In the Comfort Life Spotlight

This is our broad look at what families and seniors need to know as the big moving day approaches. When moving from a well-known home to a strange new retirement home, many housekeeping details need to be accounted for to ensure a smooth transfer. Emotional stresses must be watched, to avoid any unnecessary strain on everyone involved, whether it be the person moving or their family members assisting in the process. 

Many retirement homes offer short stays or trial stays, and this is an ideal way to introduce yourself to the residence. If you are not able to book a short stay, there are other things you can do to acclimatize yourself and your family to the move. 

Visit the retirement home once more before moving

Before the move-in day, take one final visit to the home, with your loved one.

This is a great way to get fully introduced to the new space or to make further adjustments ahead of the move. You need to take as many steps as needed, to alleviate much of the stress of moving. The senior family member can meet other residents, check out their lifestyle, and even forge early friendships. It’s also a great idea to meet as many key members of staff as possible, so they can assist with the actual move-in day and have a better idea of who the new resident is before they officially arrive.

Learn about the value of services offered and find a list of senior moving companies in our seniors' moving services directory.

Also, familiarize yourself with the admissions process of the home. Go over what time staff will be expecting you, arrange for another tour of the facility, and see if you can have an administrator on hand to assist with the move. Find out what everyone's duties will be on move-in day, and ask if you can fill in any required forms beforehand to make your time more flexible on the day of the move.

Some retirement homes offer transition management services to new residents, in which there will be one or two persons on staff whose job it is to facilitate an easy entrance into the home. Find out whether or not your home offers this service, and if so, what this entails, exactly.

Contact them beforehand to get some more advice on what to do before the move, and learn what to prepare for. Many homes will offer a checklist; we have also put together one that many readers find helpful: see what to pack.

Some seniors' real estate agents promise that the day a senior moves into a retirement home, everything that they really want and need will be ready and waiting for them when they walk in the door. Seniors' agents have a network of people including senior move managers, transition specialists, and other helpful contacts to make your move seamless. If you are still well ahead of the move-in process, be sure that you consider the value of working with a seniors' real estate agent.

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Research the suite size and plan your move

During a preliminary trip to the home, examine the room your elder will be staying in. Take measurements of each room, and plan what pieces of furniture will go where. This will help immensely when packing for the move. Also, take stock of what appliances and services are provided. Will you need to pack a toaster? Is there a phone provided in the room? These questions will all help make for easier packing, and an easier move.

Handy tip: One of the main complaints from people who move into a retirement residence is the shift in familiarity. For example, if someone has lived in their traditional home for a long time, they will easily remember where they keep the old photo albums; this familiarity is lost after a move to a new place.

With that in mind, one trick to ease this change is to mimic the layout of a traditional home as much as possible. Of course, this is not simple, and in most cases, you will be condensing space very much. When you do that, though, consider how to organize furniture and storage in a way that is similar to the way things were in the previous home. The important thing, at least, is to anticipate this change in familiarity. If family, senior loved one, and retirement residence staff can work together to create a system that will help the senior know where things are, this will go a long way to reducing future stress and confusion.

Download our Preparing For Your Move eBook.

Find even more tips and tricks in our guide to "Downsizing your home"

Deal with nervousness and other resistance

It's very typical to feel nervous about any move. Some older people may not like to admit this, or they may deny it or wish to hide feelings of vulnerability. Some seniors may have expressly told families that they "never want to go into one of those homes." Having been convinced of the need, they may still have some leftover feelings of resistance (or even resentment). On another hand, families will also feel nervousness and trepidation as the move approaches. 

Residences are prepared to deal with this, and they will give you resources to read. There is no one single pattern to this process. The main thing, though, is to look at the future; it is brighter and better. Be patient. Do all you can to remain open-minded. Think about previous life changes that have ended up being a positive experience.  

If you are feeling last-minute qualms, though, that is understandable. It might help you to read our testimonials from seniors who have gone through the process before. Rest assured that this is a process. It may not go perfectly every step of the way but we have heard from many, many seniors over the years who say, within weeks of having moved, that they wish they had done this earlier. They end up loving the renewed simplicity of their lives in a retirement community. They make new friends with fellow residents and with the caring staff they come to know. Moving into a retirement home is an adventure, with unique rewards. 

Packing lists for different types of care

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