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Nursing Home Checklist
Prepare for Moving Into a Nursing Home

What to Take to a Nursing Home

Move to a Nursing home

If you're the family member helping an older loved one move to a nursing home, you both feel a sense of loss, fear, some anger, curiosity, and a lot of nostalgia.

It's bittersweet.

If it's hard on you, the family member, know that it's as difficult or more for a loved one.

Older adults have a greater time letting go than younger people. especially when giving up a home of a lifetime. Saying it's difficult means nothing, those words don't match the intense feelings of overwhelming loss, deep regret, mortality, and emotional suffering.

A loss is forever and instigates confusion.

If your loved one has no choice but to make a nursing home their home, all one feels is grief.

The move affects you too, not just your loved one. In a sense, the entire family moves. It's your new family home.

Have patience and compassion for yourself and the one moving.

Everyone involved feels the loss, fear, change, and grief.

It's an easier adjustment if you and others take it a day at a time. It lessens the expectations of what is to happen.

The move to a nursing home is not a one-time event. There are many factors and events that lead up to the move-in day, the first week, and first month.

If you've selected the facility and in the process of pulling it all together; the list of what to take, packing, the physical move, and requesting family support, here's a checklist to guide the family through the move process.

Nursing Home Checklist

Nursing home checklist

Hopefully before now, you both (family member and loved one) have spent some time in the facility, with the staff, other residents, and other family members. You've participated in activities, had several meals with residents, attend family council meetings, and have met with the director of nursing, the social worker, and the activities director before moving to the nursing home.

List what you'll need from home

  • Any needed dentures; supplies and container
  • Electric razor or razors, shaving and aftershave lotions
  • Makeup, body powder
  • Hair supplies, including comb, brush, shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Facial tissues
  • Full sets of undergarments and 2 washable sweaters
  • Stockings or socks and 4 nightgowns or pajama sets
  • Flat, non-skid shoes and 1 coat or jacket
  • Washable, non-skid slippers and 1 robe
  • Casual outfits and 2 belts
  • Medications
  • Photos and photo albums
  • Souvenirs

Make a list of all the things to do

Who needs a call:

  • Utility services
  • Postal address change
  • Health insurance
  • Cable TV
  • Telephone

Move Plan

  • How it's going to happen
  • What's moving
  • Who's organizing the loved one

Make a plan for yourself - the family member

  • The support you need during and after the move
  • Make a family plan; who will visit the loved one and how often
  • Have a family meeting to discuss
  • Find out how each will participate in the move
  • HIre a Geriatric care manager or elder care attorney, if you need to

List out the costs of services

  • Have a clear understanding with the administration on the costs of care. Know what Medicare and Medicaid pays for and what the private insurer pays
  • Have a clear understanding of the "extra" services that the nursing homes charges
  • Have a full understanding of the nursing home agreement before the move

Prepare for emotional turmoil

  • Speak with the social worker at the nursing home on how to prepare for the anxiety, panic, confusion and other feelings that will come up for the loved one, and family members
  • Ask another family member or friend to go with you
  • Remind yourself why your loved one is making the move
  • Review in your mind what it was like for your loved one to live at home alone
  • Get support from others who've been through this before

Day of Admission

Fill out the admission forms and have the interviews with nursing home staff before the move, it's easier. That's the reason for pre-admission meetings.

On the day:

  • Allow time to address whatever comes up
  • Prepare to stay for the day
  • Ask admissions on what to expect the day of the move-in
  • Be sure you know what's required of you and the family
  • Know what you're allowed to do too

Review with Nursing Home Staff

  • What types of care you, the family member, provided to the loved one
  • Clear understanding of how you performed the tasks
  • State exactly what you provided and gave as care
  • What worked well and what did not
  • Write out the specifics of care given
  • Tell the staff what you expect from them
  • Ask how they expect things will get done
  • List out the kind of problems your loved one has
  • List what types of care's needed
  • List out the medications, therapy, that they need

Communicate with Staff

Nursing Home Staff
Nursing Home Staff

Remember, the care your loved one receives is from the direct staff at the nursing home. There will be more than one person looking after your relative. This can make communication and systems difficult to manage.

You'll need to learn the system.

Become a partner with the home and an advocate for your loved one's care. A family member's greatest responsibility is to stay involved, to visit, and to actively work to enhance your loved one's quality of life.

Here is a list on how to avoid pitfalls when interacting with long-term care staff and employees:

  • If you're dissatisfied with a staff member's care or behavior - speak up and take the issue to the administrator or director of nursing.
  • Attend scheduled care conferences. This is the place to discuss your wishes or concerns and get updates on her care.
  • Don't give out orders - make requests.
  • Don't ignore the staff, especially their input. They spend the most time with your loved one.
  • Don't expect staff to achieve things you could not. Be reasonable.
  • Designate one family member to receive information from the facility and then share it with the others.
  • Don't give tips or bring gifts for the staff if the facility has guidelines forbidding them. Find out the facility's policy.
  • Compliment and appreciate the work staff performs.
  • Say thank you to all who work at the home. And smile to all as you walk the halls of the facility, whether patient or staff while making eye contact.

It's a stressful time for you and your loved one but showing appreciation to those who care improves the experience. Make it a win-win for all.


There's no need to go this journey alone.

Find out from the nursing home staff the schedule of support groups and attend them.

There's professional help you can receive from geriatric care managers who can help you through the move process: to find a good nursing home, and to help you monitor the admission.

Contact local social workers, psychologists, and other counselors who specialize in grief, loss, and transitions.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.