Complete Checklist for Moving Your Parents Into Assisted Living
Paul Williamson – October 21, 2019
Paul Williamson – October 21, 2019
So it’s time for Mom and Dad to move into assisted living…and the to-do list can start to look intimidating.
Your parents may have a whole house full of stuff to get rid of, including cherished belongings they don’t want to part with. The house may be in desperate need of repairs before it will sell. Your mom or dad may feel ambivalent about the whole idea of moving into assisted living, switching well-loved routines for new, unknown ones. That’s completely normal.
We’ve seen every mistake in the book, and we’re here to help you avoid them. Here is True Legacy Homes’ Ultimate Assisted Living Checklist:
1. Define Expectations
2. Review Finances
3. Identify Most Cherished Possessions
4. Select the Next Residence
5. Arrange for the Disposal of Possessions
6. Sale of the House vs. Disposal
7. Pack Least-Used Rooms
8. Attend Events at Next Residence
9. Create a Moving Schedule
10. Assemble a Moving Day Box
11. Unpack and Organize the New Home
12. Review the New Home with Parents
1. Define Expectations
As any competitive rower will tell you, the ride is only smooth when everyone pulls in the same direction. Take the time to define expectations and get everyone on the same page—you, your parents, every helper, everyone whom the move touches. Defining expectations could entail the following sub-steps:
For every item further down the assisted living checklist—from checking finances, to shopping facilities, to arranging the move—agree on a date by which it will be done.
PRO TIP: The more lead time you give yourself, the better. Don’t try to skin this whole cat in one week! Successful moves to assisted living spread out over weeks or even months.
Figure out which items on the checklist will be your responsibility, which tasks your parents can take on themselves, which tasks other friends or loved ones can help with. Consider time and job constraints, physical ability, cognitive capacity, and the assignee’s talent for the task.
Many tasks on the checklist could benefit from a professional touch. You may be busy; some tasks may be unsafe for a senior citizen to attempt. Consider which tasks you might hire out, including appraisals, movers, REALTORs®, and estate sale liquidators.
A move to assisted living means expenses and a change in your parents’ overall financial picture. This is a perfect time for a check-in with Mom and Dad’s money situation. This can determine what the next steps should be, including what assisted living community to select or your budget for hiring movers.
Things to look at include:
If your parents own their house, figure out how much equity they have. Check the payoff balance on any existing mortgages or home equity lines of credit. Estimate the value of the house. You can start with aggregated estimates like Zillow’s “Zestimate” or the county appraiser’s assessment. A professional appraisal or REALTOR® comparative market analysis (CMA) can give you a more accurate picture. You can do your own CMA by checking the “sold” listings on Zillow.com or Trulia.com.
PRO TIP: If the house is in the coverage zone of the real estate website Redfin.com, it has the most accurate, up-to-the-minute data of recent home sales for your CMA.
What do your parents own that retains value? Consider electronics, artwork, antiques, collections like silver or china or comic books, anything that could interest a niche buyer. Check the value of any automobiles, motorcycles, or boats your parents might on on kbb.com or edmunds.com.
“Assets” are anything of value that might put money into your parents’ pockets. These might include real estate investments, stock portfolios, or other business holdings.
“Liabilities” are anything that takes money out of their pockets. These include balances due on credit cards, insurance premiums, car loans, business loans, business expenses, judgments against them, alimony or child support, and any other payables.
While an “asset” looks at the value of a business or investment, “income streams” are how much money your parents actually pocket from their assets or other sources. This could include wages, pensions, investment dividends, income from rental property, business income, annuities, judgments in their favor, and entitlements like Social Security.
Most seniors must downsize significantly to adjust to smaller assisted living quarters. This can be an emotional process, asking your parents to let go of furnishings, decorations, and keepsakes that make them feel “at home.” The true treasures should absolutely come with them, but not everything will fit. Get organized for a compassionate assessment of the emotions your parents have invested in their belongings.
Make a list of everything in the house—not just where it is, but where to find it. Take pictures if possible to store with the descriptions. This will not only help your parents along in the decision process, but help other family members decide what they might want to keep in the family and help the estate sale liquidator or appraiser work efficiently if you decide to hire out these tasks.
Go through your inventory and rank items from 1-3, or 1-10, with 1 being “must take with us” and 10 being “definitely get rid of.”
If your parents’ next residence allows them to bring furnishings, you will need to know if your parents’ keepers can fit the available space. Note the furniture dimensions in your inventory.
Helping your parents pick their next home is as important, if not more important, than gracefully disposing of the old home. Some suggestions to help you along in the process:
If they need support for specific activities of daily living (ADLs) including bathing, dressing, and mobility, you will need to make sure the facilities offer support for those ADLs. If your parents live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a specialized Memory Care community may be required. If they are attached to a particular doctor, you will need to know that so you can check whether the selected senior community will allow them to stay with that doctor.
You can Google-search facilities close to where you live, preferred attractions, a favorite doctor’s office, or by price range. Online databases like seniorly.com or aplaceformom.com allow you to perform an advanced search by multiple parameters, including distance, amenities, and levels of care.
Once you have a list of options, arrange tours for you and your parents. Try to meet the activities director, caregiving director, and community director if possible. Get floor plans with measurements so you know which possessions will fit and which won’t. Consider an unannounced visit (without Mom and Dad) to see what life is like at the community when they are not expecting you.
If you are pressed for time, specialized real estate agents may be able to provide done-for-you assisted-living apartment searches for seniors. They may offer this service to you for free if they get a referral commission from the senior community. Google-search providers, check yelp.com, or ask friends and family for referrals.
If your parents have spent decades nesting into the house, clearing it out may be the lion’s share of the task. Try to give yourself as much lead time as possible and break the task down into the following steps:
Other family members may do part of your job for you by taking beloved mementos off your parents’ hands. Your triaged inventory will be a valuable guide.
Get your people organized. Consider a group chat on iMessage or WhatsApp, create a Facebook Group, or hold a family meeting on an announced date to sort out who gets what.
An estate sale can provide much-needed cash for the move and initial expenses. Like a pumped-up garage sale, it typically happens when your parents have already moved out. The entire house gets turned into a giant second-hand sale, with everything up for grabs. Not that a professional appraisal is often advised to keep from selling a million-dollar baseball card for a quarter.
PRO TIP: Estate sales are massive undertakings. Seriously consider hiring an estate sale liquidator to manage a successful sale in exchange for a commission on sold items. This can save you significant headaches.
Many charities offer pickup of volume donations. Consider scheduling a pickup as soon as you know the estate sale date. The truck can arrive immediately after the sale ends to pick up any unsold items.
If your parents have substantial equity in the home, selling it could be crucial to setting them up financially. Steps to consider include:
If you don’t know any REALTORs®, ask for referrals.
The time and effort spent fixing the house, hosting prospective buyers, and negotiating the final deal usually more than justifies a REALTOR’s® fee.
To get top dollar, the house may require significant repairs. Shop around for contractors, or use your REALTOR’s® or estate sale service’s preferred vendor.
Get a head start on packing and organizing in the least-trafficked rooms of the house. These might include:
Hosting visitors must take a back seat to the move.
These functions can be consolidated into other rooms.
Items in here have probably not been touched for years and won’t soon be missed.
Once the senior community is chosen and your parents acclimate to the idea of the move, it is time to get involved in the community. Attending some activities and functions will help the assisted living community to start feeling like home.
Get a list of activities your parents can attend and schedule their participation. Your parents can start bonding with their neighbors immediately.
Arrange a sit-down with your parents and a caregiver so they can understand the care plan and establish trust with the providers.
Prior planning assures an orderly move. Make plans for the following:
Look into boxes, totes, packing tape, glass protectors, scratch-preventing blankets, dollies, markets, and trucks.
Many moving companies book weeks, even months in advance depending on the season. Get on their calendar as soon as you have a move date. Details can be adjusted later if need be.
Call your parents’ utility companies ahead of time and arrange the shutoff of water, gas, electricity, cable, internet, etc. so they don’t pay for utilities they don’t use after the move.
Change your parents’ mailing address and address with Social Security.
PRO TIP: Hire a senior moving manager to assist with organizing and moving.
When it comes time to move, your parents should have everything they need within reach.
Treat it like your parents are going on vacation, packing essential outfits, toiletries, medications, and appliances for easy access. They can start living out of their moving-day bag days or even weeks before the move.
If your parents are relocating to assisted living in the San Diego area, True Legacy Homes can check many of the boxes on your checklist. Contact us for details.
When moving your parents, establish a familiar environment in their new home. They will feel more at home when they have furniture, decor, books and photos from their old home. Help them to unpack and organize their new home to create an environment that is comfortable for them.
It is important to take some time to review the set-up and layout of your parents’ new home with them. You want them to be as comfortable as possible. Make sure they know where everything is and ask if there is anything else from the old house they would like brought to the new home. Remove items that do not fit in the new home.