What Should You Bring to a Retirement Community?

It can often be tempting to feel the need to pack every single item that you own into a box and bring everything...

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Making the move from a traditional home environment to a retirement community can create many different emotions. It’s understandably easy to get caught up in how you feel about the situation. A large percentage of people that are getting ready to leave the independence they’ve known for so long to move into a shared space report a mixture of nerves, sadness, excitement, and even anger (especially if it wasn’t your idea to move out of your home). While those emotions are very important to deal with and are a crucial part of the process of moving into a retirement community, it’s also essential to remember to not neglect the physical side of your big move.

It can often be tempting to feel the need to pack every single item that you own into a box and bring everything to your new home. This is a completely valid way to feel, as we often attach a lot of emotional significance to the things we’ve collected over the years. Before you get out all those moving boxes, however, let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t bring with you to your new home.

Table of Contents

Should I Bring My Jewelry?

Whether or not to bring personal jewelry is often the first question that comes up for people. At this point in their lives, most people have amassed a significant amount of jewelry and it can be one of the most emotional items to make tough decisions on.

When making your decision, it is important to remember that, as safe as most retirement communities are, there are no absolute guarantees that your jewelry will be secure. Jewelry items that you will wear on a daily basis are absolutely acceptable to wear provided they don’t present any risks to your care. You are especially encouraged to wear your wedding ring or any other personally significant necklaces or bracelets that you don’t take have to off daily. Consider either giving away other pieces to family members or friends. If you simply can’t stand to part with them, see if your new community can provide you with a lock box or a safe to keep them secure.

Remember that the security of your jewelry isn’t always due to thievery or other criminal behavior. A large part of the dementia process is kleptomania (or habitual stealing), especially of shiny items and trinkets. These members of your new community don’t mean anything sinister by it and often aren’t even aware that they are doing it, but if the thought of losing your jewelry is completely unacceptable to you… don’t bring it.

What About My Furniture?

Furniture is another frequently asked about item when people move from their often long term homes into a structured retirement community. Obviously, a move like this causes you to have to downsize many of the larger furniture items that you own, but you may be surprised by how difficult and emotional those decisions can make you. A good place to start is with contacting the staff at your new community to find out exactly how big your personal space will be. Will you have a single room or will you have a roommate? This will help narrow down what you can and can’t actually physically fit in your room.

Also, in the majority of cases, you will not be able to bring your own bed frame or mattress. This is simply due to safety concerns, as most facilities will require that you use their hospital beds for easier access should you need it for healthcare reasons. These beds also have call lights that allow you to contact staff if you need help quickly.

Related to beds, while you can’t bring your own bed frame and mattress, it is strongly encouraged that you bring with you your personal pillows, pillow cases, blankets, and comforters. This is an easy way to still feel connected to your previous home, and to make your new space feel as “homey” as possible. It can also give you emotional support during the early weeks of your transition, which can feel overwhelming and full of homesickness. In the same vein, you are also welcome to bring any stuffed animals that you may be specifically emotionally connected to. Don’t underestimate the comfort of being able to hold or snuggle something like that during the more difficult first nights.

Many facilities will also allow you to bring a smaller dresser to store your clothing in as well. You will usually also be able to bring a personal chair (whether that chair is a recliner, lounger, or rocking chair). Remember to check with your new retirement community to verify their own rules.

I’d Really Like To Bring My Own Clothes!

Another item not to spend too much time worrying about is your clothing. While you may have to decide on your most important pieces, you shouldn’t worry about being able to wear your own clothes. Most facilities prefer that you provide your own clothing. Make sure to write your full name on all tags, though, as there is no way to keep clothing separate during the facility’s laundering process.

However, when deciding what exactly to bring, be aware that most facilities prefer that you stick to articles of clothing that can easily be put on or taken off. This includes elastic band pants, button up shirts, pull on or button up nightgowns, and shoes without laces.

I Don’t Want to Move Without My Photographs!

Family photographs can also be a great way to feel connected to your loved ones while living in a retirement community. There are certain guidelines to keep in mind, though. While it can be tempting to bring your original photos, that is not recommended for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, there is always a risk of your photographs being lost or destroyed. Also, in many retirement communities, any personal property brought into the facility must be sprayed with a fire repellent for potential fire hazard reasons. The repellent spray may ruin your photographs, so making copies ahead of moving in is the safest way to ensure they aren’t destroyed and allows you can keep and view those memories for years to come.

What Small Things Am I Forgetting?

While it can be easy to lost in focusing on the bigger and more personal items, make sure to remember to also pack and bring with you any personal hygiene items that you’d like to have access to on a regular basis. This includes lotions, shampoos and conditioners, Gold Bond powder, makeup, etc. Just make sure that they are all labeled with your name, as the majority of retirement communities have communal showers. Many people also prefer to bring water safe, non-slip sandals to wear in the bath/shower too, both for personal hygiene and safety.

You should also bring books and magazines with you when you move. Access to libraries (both at the retirement community but also with local bookmobiles and libraries) is available, but it may be some time before you are settled in enough to worry about that. Save yourself the time and boredom by bringing a few of your own when moving in.

Make sure that you leave at home personal food or snacks unless you have been specifically instructed to bring them with you. Many retirement communities have hard rules about keeping food in your room. You may be able to purchase some after moving in, but plan ahead and leave it behind when you move.

Let’s Recap...

Below is a brief checklist of what to bring and what to leave when you move. If you have any additional or specific questions, contact the staff at your new facility for more details. You can also request a tour prior to moving in, which can allow you to really see your new space and decide on what (if any) furniture you can realistically fit in your room.

Feel free to bring…

  • Jewelry items that you don’t plan to take off
  • Personal pillows, pillowcases, and blankets
  • Furniture items that are allowed by your facility - chairs, dressers, etc.
  • Multiple changes of easily launderable clothing and shoes
  • Copies of family photos
  • Personal hygiene items
  •  Books, magazines, etc.

Don’t bring…

  • Expensive personal jewelry that you can’t wear
  • Bed frames, mattresses, and sheets
  • Personal food and snacks
  • Original family photos

In summary, making the transition from your personal home to a new retirement community can often be emotional and difficult. It’s a big change! Help make it easier by preparing yourself ahead of time. Make a list of everything you own, and divide it into what you can and can’t bring with you when you move. This will help you reduce the stress of having to make last minute decisions or the embarrassment of being informed when you arrive that you can’t bring certain items in. It also can help you plan where you want the items that you are not taking with you to go. This way, you can relax and enjoy this new and exciting phase of your life! Good luck with your move!

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