A Checklist for Moving to Assisted Living

Sep 14, 2023
Fact Checked
Written by: Kate Van Dis
Medical Reviewer: Carla Payne, MA, CMC

Key Takeaways

Transitioning to assisted living can be overwhelming. An assisted living checklist can help streamline the logistics of moving and ease the process for everyone involved.

Moving from a home to an assisted living facility can be stressful. In March of 2023, our Local Care Reviews Team surveyed 1,000 caregivers of older adults about their search for senior living options. Forty percent of respondents cited a fall or medical diagnosis—factors that can make a move even more challenging—as a primary reason for their search. Planning ahead is ideal, but making a plan is not always possible when the unexpected occurs.

Families should know what to expect, no matter what circumstances lead to a move to assisted living. This article can serve as a checklist for moving someone you care for to assisted living, or as a guide for older adults moving into assisted living on their own. While some of the items on this list require ample planning time, the list can still be helpful for those who need to move without a great deal of advance notice.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this transition alone. Talk to friends and family members who have moved to senior living, reach out to the administrators of the facility you’re moving to, and use our checklist as a guide.

Why you can trust our expert review

Our team works hard to provide clear, transparent information to older adults seeking senior living and home care. To provide you with the best possible information, we have spent more than 250 hours:

Part 1: Downsizing and organizing

Moving to assisted living often means downsizing from a single-family home or apartment to a smaller apartment or studio. In some cases, you or someone you care for may be sharing an apartment with another assisted living resident. Before making the move, consider how much you need to downsize, and pack accordingly.

Assessing the new space

Before deciding what should stay or go, learn everything you can about your new living quarters. Consider taking these steps:

Questions to ask before downsizing and organizing

Before you pack, check in with the facility about suggestions and restrictions on personal belongings. Consider asking these questions:

Knowing what to keep, donate, and discard

As you pack, organize your belongings into three categories: things you’ll take with you, things you’ll donate or pass on to family and friends, and things you’ll throw away.

Here’s how to differentiate what to keep, donate, and discard when moving to assisted living:

Packing clothing and other personal belongings

In an assisted living community, closet space may be limited. Find out how much storage you’ll have before you decide what clothes to take. For example, some assisted living facilities will provide each resident with a free-standing wardrobe, but not a closet. Ask about how much space is available for a dresser and decide which one to bring to the new assisted living home. The size of the dresser will also help you decide on additional clothes to bring that won’t go in the closet.

Also, if the assisted living facility provides laundry services, they may require personal labels on all clothing, so your items don’t get mixed up with those of other residents. Use a fine-point permanent marker to write your name on all clothing with sewn-in labels. For the rest of your clothing, try no-iron clothing labels, which self-adhere to clothing, and are washing machine and dryer safe.

Part 2: Moving to assisted living logistics

A little pre-planning can go a long way toward easing the stress of a move. Enlisting the help of family members, a move manager, or a moving company can also make the transition easier.

Create a timeline for the move

Work with the facility to schedule your move-in day. Then, work backward to create a timeline for packing, finalizing paperwork, and handling any legal or financial matters. Remember, your actual move-in will only take one day, but you’ll need several weeks or more to pack and organize for moving day.

Consider a senior move manager

According to the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers (NASSM), a senior move manager can help older adults and their families with various relocation tasks, including downsizing, scheduling and overseeing movers, and unpacking and settling into a new home. [1]National Association of Senior & Speciality Move Managers. FAQs. Found on the internet at https://www.nasmm.org/faqs/

Susan Stanhope, a NASSM-accredited senior move manager and owner of Move Elders with Ease, shared that her team will “make beds, hang clothing in closets, organize kitchens, and even hang art so the new space feels like home. This allows you to transition into your new community, ready to enjoy new adventures.” In general, Stanhope said, working with a senior move manager “decreases the feeling of overwhelm that often accompanies a decision to move.”

Determine whether you need to hire movers

Not all older adults will need professional movers to help them move to assisted living. The decision to hire movers will depend on the size of your current home as well as the size of your assisted living apartment or studio. If you’re moving from one small studio apartment to another, friends and family may be able to assist you with the bulk of the moving, especially if some furniture is provided in the new location. However, if you’re moving into an assisted living facility from a relatively large home, and plan to bring several pieces of furniture, you may want to consider hiring professional packers and movers.

Search for reputable movers near you

If you need to hire professional movers, take these steps to ensure you get a good deal with an experienced, trustworthy company:

Part 3: Health and medical considerations

Assisted living facilities provide residents with personal care and some medical services. This makes a move to assisted living different from a move to a private residence. Working with the facility’s administrators on health and medical factors will be an essential part of the move to assisted living.

Complete required forms and tests

All assisted living facilities require potential residents to submit the results of a TB test ⓘAdministered as a skin or blood test, a TB test checks to see if you have been infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB)., which can be completed at many pharmacies, and a physician referral form. The name of this form will vary by state, but it will typically include information about the level of care a resident needs, including diagnoses, current medications, and immunizations. Some facilities may also require a negative COVID-19 test prior to move-in.

In addition to these tests, the staff of most assisted living facilities will perform a thorough evaluation to determine the level of care each resident needs. This evaluation, which usually occurs before or shortly after the resident moves into the facility, determines the level of assistance a resident needs with activities of daily living (ADLs) ⓘActivities of daily living, also called ADLs, are activities related to necessary personal care. These include bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, walking, and transferring in and out of a bed or chair., like bathing or dressing. It will also detail which medications need to be administered to the resident and take into account any other needs like physical therapy.

Communicate needs and preferences to the assisted living staff

In addition to the physician referral form, which will help to communicate medical needs to the staff, it’s a good idea to share hobbies and personal interests with assisted living staff. This will help the staff match you or someone you care for with social activities most beneficial to their social and emotional health.

Coordinate with health care providers

Assisted living facilities are typically staffed by certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and some may have a registered nurse (RN) or licensed professional nurse (LPN) on staff. Some assisted living facilities may offer weekly or monthly on-site access to medical professionals, including geriatricians, pharmacists, psychiatrists, and physical therapists.

You or someone you care for may also choose to receive care from a health care provider outside the facility. In this case, you’ll need to coordinate transportation to and from appointments. You’ll also need to ensure your health care providers can easily communicate medical updates to the assisted living staff.

Transfer any medical records and prescriptions

If your move to assisted living involves switching to a new health care provider or pharmacist, coordinate with staff at the facility to transfer all necessary medical records and prescriptions. Most assisted living facilities will require all medication prescriptions to be transferred to the facility’s preferred pharmacy.

Part 4: Paperwork, bills, and utilities

Before your move to assisted living, you’ll need to go through the process of completing the required paperwork, managing bills, and canceling utilities in your current home.

Complete pre-move paperwork with the community

The assisted living facility will have paperwork the new resident and their family need to complete. This may include medical and financial information, emergency contacts, or a questionnaire about the interests and preferences of the new resident.

Cancel or transfer current utilities and services

In most cases, the all-inclusive rent at an assisted living facility will cover utilities like water and electricity. You can likely cancel these services at your current home without transferring them to your new address. Check with the facility about which services you’ll need to set up and pay for on your own, such as Wi-Fi or a dedicated telephone landline for your room.

Fill out a change-of-address form

Fill out the official United States Postal Service Change-of-Address form, so mail can be forwarded to your new address. You can also use this online form to update your voter registration. Share your new address with friends, family members, and other important contacts. To reduce the risk of potential scams, especially for assisted living residents living with dementia, some families have mail sent to their home address, instead of to the facility.

Moving to assisted living is a good opportunity to get your legal and financial affairs in order. It may be helpful to hire an elder law attorney for some of the documents needed for assisted living, such as a power of attorney (POA).

To ensure you’re getting the best possible care, and your wishes will be honored in the event of a medical emergency, be sure your important legal documents are updated and on file at the assisted living facility. You may want to keep your own copy of these important documents in your assisted living apartment in a locked safe.

Important documents to update for your assisted living checklist include:

One of the benefits of assisted living is a single monthly bill covering most of your expenses, but there are still some expenses you’ll need to cover each month. A monthly payment to the facility will also need to be arranged.

Here’s a list of financial to-dos to check off your list before moving to assisted living:

Part 6: Settling in

Your first night or two in a new home can feel disorienting. Be patient with yourself or the person you care for, and remember that adjusting to a new living situation takes time. While moving to assisted living only takes a single day, it may take a few weeks or months to acclimate to your new home. Here are some tips for settling into your new community.

Familiarize yourself with the facility

New assisted living residents and their families should take the time to get to know the staff and other residents at the facility. Find out where all the communal living spaces are in relation to your room or apartment.

Personalize your space

Make your new space feel like home by hanging up family photos and keeping comforting items nearby, such as a favorite quilt or throw blanket. If you’re moving a care recipient into assisted living, set up their television and phone before they spend their first night in the facility.

Locate emergency call devices

Most assisted living facilities provide emergency pull cords in bathrooms and bedrooms. Locate the emergency call systems in your new living quarters, and test them to ensure they’re working properly. Arrange furniture so these cords or buttons are easy to access.

Download our Moving to Assisted Living Checklist below.

Unable to display PDF file.

Bottom line

A move to assisted living can be stressful for older adults and their caregivers. This kind of move typically involves downsizing and managing legal, financial, and medical documents. A checklist for moving to assisted living can help manage all of the details and keep you organized.

Use this article to create your checklist, and use it as a guide for keeping things on track during the moving process. “Ask for help, and allow others to assist you,” Stanhope says about moving an older adult to assisted living. You don’t have to go through the moving process alone.

Frequently asked questions

Before packing, check with the assisted living facility about what items are prohibited or potentially dangerous to residents. For example, throw rugs are usually not permitted, as they can be a fall hazard.

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, 50% of assisted living residents are 85 years or older; 31% of assisted living residents are between 75 and 84. [3]American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. Facts & Figures. Found on the internet at https://www.ahcancal.org/Assisted-Living/Facts-and-Figures/Pages/default.aspx

What you should pack for a move to assisted living depends on the size of your new living quarters and the services provided by the facility. For example, if all meals are provided, you won’t need to pack many kitchen items. Before packing, ask the assisted living facility for a packing or move-in checklist.

Have questions about this article? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.


  1. FAQs. National Association of Senior & Speciality Move Managers. Found on the internet at https://www.nasmm.org/faqs/
  2. Do-not-resuscitate order. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Found on the internet at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000473.htm
  3.  Facts & Figures. American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. Found on the internet at https://www.ahcancal.org/Assisted-Living/Facts-and-Figures/Pages/default.aspx
Kate Van Dis
Kate Van Dis Author
Kate Van Dis is a health writer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She has written for various audiences on health & wellness, education, and aging. Her current focus is on assisted living, home care, and other extra-care housing options for older adults.
Carla earned a certificate in Gerontology and discovered the Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers) and found her calling. In 2010, she co-founded Brandywine Elder Care Management, LLC, assisting families navigating the chaotic and stressful maze of elder care. In 2013, she completed her National Certification in Care Management from the National Association of Certified Care Managers.
Kathleen Cameron
Kathleen Cameron Reviewer
Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher, and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. Cameron is Senior Director of the NCOA Center for Healthy Aging, where she provides subject matter expertise on health care programmatic and policy related issues and oversees the Modernizing Senior Center Resource Center.
Was this helpful?
Thank you for your feedback!