The typical size of nursing home or assisted living community room is 200-350 sq. ft. Moving mom or dad from a 1,000 sq. ft. home into a room the fraction of the size comes with a lot of questions, and a lot of hard decisions.

The move is without doubt emotional. But re-defining home can make the transition easier for everyone involved. Here are our best tips for making a room a home.


Work with the senior living community to determine those items you need to bring for a move. Some communities feature vacant apartments that require you to bring everything - furniture, towels, kitchen equipment. But others may be fully furnished and supply items like bed linens and towels. Once you determine what’s included, you’ll know how much you need to sort.

As much as possible, involve your aging loved one in the sorting process. Determine which household items will be going with your loved one and which ones won’t. For someone emotionally attached to items, this can be a hard process, so prepare for this process to take some time, with a few bumps in the road.

At a senior facility, especially those with higher levels of nursing support, items like kitchen appliances, bath towels and other electronics won’t be needed. Typically, residents need only bring their clothing and other keepsakes. Sort items into categories - those your loved one will take with them, those to donate, and those to keep in the family. If the dining room table has been in the family for years, decide which family member will continue the tradition. That will help give solace to parting with some pieces.

Cornerstone pieces

Some senior facilities allow residents to bring a small furniture piece with them (space and regulation approving). Perhaps a chair or a dresser will make the new space feel more like home. Items like a treasured recipe book, photo albums, or even a bed comforter can help re-define home for your loved one. Ask them what items are most important for them. Try to incorporate either these pieces or mementos of them in the move.

Enlist help

Moving is tough in any situation. But moving Mom or Dad into a nursing home or assisted living community adds on a high emotional value for everyone involved. Enlist as much help as you can in the sorting, moving and settling in process. Family members, friends and even professional services can help with the move. If possibly, take it slowly, tackling one room at a time. Keep in mind this process may be too much for your loved one. Always enlist the community’s help with the transition. They can help provide emotional support and offer practical resources for making the move.


At some point, most of us will be faced with helping our parents sort through their belongings. And while most of us face it, most of us don’t prepare for this life-changing event. Some writers are breaking it down. Marni Jameson, nationally syndicated columnist is author of Downsizing the Family Home - a guide to help families prepare for the details and the emotional aspects of downsizing your parent’s home. Tabitha had the privilege of talking with Marni on our podcast, Answers on Aging.

Listen to our conversation with Marni

Check out her book, Downsizing the Family Home