The American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) suggests families ask two key questions when considering a move to senior living for themselves and their loved ones:

  • How much can I afford?
  • What level of care do I really need?

After those questions are answered, families can go about the task of finding the ideal community and then preparing for the move to senior living. At this point, the challenges continue, and perhaps even become more challenging …

We asked professionals at communities throughout The Arbor Company to offer their opinions and advice on making the move to senior living. Their responses were enlightening and provide a good blueprint for families working through the process. Here are 15 of our experts’ tips for preparing for a move to senior living:

Finding a Community

Before an actual move to senior living occurs, you must select a community that will best fit you or your loved one’s needs. This can take time but is well worth the effort. Considerations include level of care, staff, amenities, environment, activities and entertainment, cost, location, and more. Here are some opinions that the experts at our fine communities offer:

“Do some research—know your needs and what you are looking for (independent living, assisted living, or memory care). When you tour a community, don't be afraid to ask questions, request a full tour, and take notes. Re-tour at a different time. Make time to read and understand the contract, house rules, and resident rights before you make your final decision.”

—Karen Weldon, Business Office Manager

“I always empower my families to pay attention to how the community makes them feel when they are visiting a community. Ultimately, the decision to move your loved one into a community comes from the heart. If a community ‘feels’ like home to the family, then it will feel that way to their loved one, too.”

—Dana Goldfarb, Senior Care Counselor, Arbor Terrace of Middletown

“Involve the senior in the decision, and make their apartment feel like home as much as possible.”

—Tami Cumings, SVP of Sales, The Arbor Company home office

The Moving Process

Once you have selected a community and signed the contract, the next step is planning for the move itself. This can be challenging for several reasons, but most notably, the adjustment in lifestyle for the community resident and the shift from what is often a home full of memories to a smaller apartment setting. Neither challenge is easy for senior or family. Our professionals provided some tips in handling the moving process:

“Whether you or your loved one wants to move into a senior living apartment or not, remember that it is still a change. Each resident will need time to adjust to new surroundings and new faces. Although this adjustment will happen, it may not happen right away.”

—Cynthia Smith, Business Office Manager, Arbor Terrace of Burnt Hickory

“During the move-in process, it is important to under-promise and over-deliver.”

—Cynthia Carey, Senior Care Counselor, Arbor Terrace at Cascade

“The transition into any senior living residence is difficult for both residents and families. Please give the community time to get to know your loved one, their routines, and their moods. Also, plan to provide the community with as much information as you can about them. This is huge help in ensuring a smooth transition.”

—Erika Young, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace Fairfax

“During the move-in process, try to remember to take the process one day at a time. Rely on the help from others and from the community to make the transition and move-in less stressful.”

—Karen Emerson, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace of Knoxville

“Choose your most treasured possessions and plan to make them fit or work in your new home. It'll make you feel more comfortable once you get settled. If you can, set up your new apartment ahead of when you physically will move in; this makes the move less stressful than doing it all at once. Plan to send out a note to close friends and extended family with your change of address and an invitation to come visit!”

—Rebecca Smith, RVP of Sales, The Arbor Company home office

The Move Itself

Even with the most planning, the actual move to senior living may not go as smoothly as hoped. Our experts have assisted hundreds of families with this transition and offer these tips:

“The best advice that I have is to set up the apartment in advance of your loved one's move-in day if at all possible. I have found that it creates a much smoother experience if all of the furniture has been delivered and placed, the bed is made, and the pictures are hung. That way, when you show your loved one his or her new home for the first time, it looks welcoming and inviting! At our community, we always like to put fresh flowers or a houseplant in the apartment, too. These small touches can really go a long way toward making a great first impression.”

—Caroline Weldon, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace of East Cobb

“Come early in the day so that you can join in the meals and activities before bedtime. Bring furniture and things from home that will allow you to ‘customize’ your apartment so that you feel ‘at home.’ Decorate your door, and go out of your way to meet those on your hallway. Try to have your entire apartment set up before you move in so that the transition is less chaotic. Stock your fridge with familiar items that make you feel good and comforted.”

—Karen Pascaner, Senior Care Counselor, Arbor Terrace at Crabapple

“Bring familiar pieces from their own home.”

—Penny Reider, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace at Kingwood Town Center

“Special art, photos, quilt/bedding, keepsakes are important to make the resident feel like it is ‘home.’ Work with the nursing or therapy team to ensure that the resident has appropriate footwear for fall prevention; Crocs, flip-flops, and high heels are often the culprit of trip/fall issues. Make a ‘Welcome home!’ basket of their favorite treats (if appropriate) so that they have comfort snacks ready the first day. Label the clothes! Advise nursing if any alcohol is in the room and if the resident has a preferred wine label for the dining room to offer them at dinner or any special food requests. Talk to the community about how to handle resident spending money (if residents cannot do it themselves) and activities that may be outside the community that have additional costs. Beware of large amounts of cash, jewelry, and coin collections. Residents with cognitive impairment can easily misplace these things.”

—Tammy DeCaro, Executive Director, Barrington Terrace at Naples

“The setup of the apartment you choose is very important in regard to furniture selection, as well as bringing as many furnishings into the suite that are going to make your loved one feel at home. It will help if you spend extra thought into being strategic about furniture placement. For example, if a resident has been getting out of bed on a particular side for years at home, let’s set them up the same way in their apartment. It will keep them in the same routine and help reduce the risk of a fall at the same time. Also, give yourself a few days before moving your loved one in to set up the room so that when you bring your family member, it is perfect for them on move-in day.”

—Rodney McKee, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace at Burnt Hickory

“Understand it takes time for both the resident and the family members to adjust to the community. Be patient, and don't hesitate to ask for support from the staff.”

—Freda Meyer, Executive Director, Arbor Terrace at Crabapple

Even with these 15 tips, families may still have questions about preparing for a move to senior living. The best way to find answers to these questions is to visit communities, take tours, and talk to the staff. This is such a big decision for you and your loved one that gathering as much information as possible is crucial, so never be afraid to ask questions, more questions, and even more questions before choosing a community.

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