​​6 Steps for Helping Your Loved One Transition from a Hospital to Senior Living

 A senior caregiver stands next to an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair as they discuss transitioning from a hospital to an assisted living community

Transitioning to a senior living community in a slow, thoughtful manner is ideal. However, if your senior loved one is in the hospital, they may need to move into a senior living community directly after being discharged. As their caregiver, you may not have the luxury of a planned move, and you may be required to make quick decisions as the situation changes.

Although this might feel like an overwhelming experience, you can do it successfully! We’re here to support and guide you through this process. Follow the steps to support your loved one through their transition from the hospital to a senior living community.

1. Stay updated on hospital discharge plans.

If your loved one is in the hospital, note that discharge planning begins almost immediately. Connect with your loved one’s hospital care team right away upon your loved one’s admittance into the hospital because often, the hospital will already be preparing for discharge. Be sure to remain updated with these plans so you aren’t blindsided by a fast discharge.

Touch base with the hospital care team daily to understand what the discharge timeline looks like while keeping them informed about your senior living community search progress. As long as you aren’t taking a very long time to find a senior living community, discharge planners at the hospital are often able to shift the discharge date by a few days to buy you more time to find the right fit.

Similarly, if your loved one is moving from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility and then to a senior living community, you’ll need to first work with the discharge team at the hospital and then with the discharge team at the skilled nursing community.


2. Find the right senior living lifestyle option.

When your loved one is still in the hospital, you can begin to search for senior living communities. However, you will need to search as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Begin your search by looking for senior living communities that provide the lifestyle option that best meets your loved one’s needs. If you aren’t sure what type of support and assistance to search for, speak with their physician or their care team for recommendations. 

Is assisted living the right choice?

Assisted living offers around-the-clock caregiver assistance personalized to each resident’s needs and abilities. Residents enjoy knowing that they can receive support with tasks like dressing, grooming, or bathing, depending on their unique needs. They’ll also have three meals a day with neighbors in the on-site dining room. These communities are active, with multiple programs and events scheduled throughout the week. 

Is memory care the right choice?

For someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a memory care community can provide a safe and structured environment with caregiver assistance, environmental safety and support, and other accommodations that enhance quality of life. Residents in a memory care community receive support from staff members to ensure they’re eating healthy meals and performing personal care tasks. These communities also help maintain a routine to reduce stress and provide a sense of security.


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3. Ask the right questions about the senior living communities.

Now that you have a list of communities in your desired location that offer the right lifestyle option for your loved one, make calls to each community to get more information. When you call each community, have a list of questions handy so you know what to ask. Jot down the answers to keep the information organized as you narrow down your list. 

Here are a few questions you can ask in order to determine which communities to tour:

Do you have any available apartments?

Depending on your discharge plan, you might not be able to wait for weeks or months for an apartment to become available. Asking upfront if there are any available apartments can quickly determine whether you should pursue the community further.

Do you have the capacity to handle an upcoming quick discharge?

Most assisted living and memory care communities can handle a quick discharge, but it’s important to ask. If you choose a community that answers “yes,” you’ll know their team members are ready to spring into action with assessments and other tasks to prepare the way for your loved one.

What are your monthly fees?

Be sure that the community you’re looking at fits your loved one’s budget. If you aren’t sure how much your loved one can afford to pay monthly, engage in this frank but necessary conversation with them directly. If they are not capable of having this conversation for various medical reasons, speak with their bank or financial advisor to ensure you have the right information. 

Can I schedule a tour in the next few days?

Schedule a tour of any potential communities as soon as possible to get more information, see the community in action, and make important in-person observations

4. Take a tour of potential senior living communities.

When possible, schedule tours back-to-back so you can take full advantage of your time off of work and away from your senior loved one’s side. During your tours, take time to interact with key leadership staff, observe residents in the halls and at social events, check out the food menu options and program calendar, and get a good feel for the environment and culture.

Make these key observations:

  • Cleanliness: Is the community clean, well-kept, and cared for?
  • Resident appearances and interactions: Are residents well cared for, happy, and interacting with one another?
  • Team interactions: Are caregivers interacting genuinely with residents and one another?
  • Community activities: Are social events occurring regularly? Are residents gathering with one another in community spaces?
  • Welcoming atmosphere and vibrant lifestyle: Does it feel good in the community? Are residents active, happy, and participating in the life of the community?
  • Amenities and services: Are the services and amenities available in the community going to benefit your loved one?

When possible, involve your loved one in the decision-making process by having them tour along with you via video chat. You can also bring brochures and information packets back to them in the hospital so they can advocate for their needs and preferences.

5. Make the decision while supporting your loved one emotionally.

Making a lot of quick decisions may feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember to continue supporting your loved one. 

Acknowledge and understand your loved one’s emotional journey.

Your loved one may push back on moving to a community, express sadness about moving out of their current residence, or even become angry. All of these feelings are valid, and it’s important to support your loved one as they process their emotions.

Reach out to mental health professionals and the senior living community.

Once you have decided on a senior living community, a representative from the team will likely come to visit your loved one while they are in the hospital or skilled nursing facility. This is a crucial step that begins the relationship-building process and enables the senior living team to get to know your loved one and their needs.

The senior living community will then become a part of the discharge planning team and guide you and your loved one through any necessary preparations before the move, as well as help you get ready for moving day

Ask the memory care or assisted living community you choose if they can make every effort to provide extra support to your loved one through resident welcome events, support groups, and counseling visits. If feasible, consider scheduling regular visits with a therapist who has experience with senior transitions. You can coordinate transportation to these appointments via the senior living community or ask if the therapist does house calls.

6. Prepare for moving day and beyond.

No matter what the situation, moving can be stressful, especially because you may be in charge of getting the furniture and other items from your loved one’s previous residence before they transition from the hospital to the senior living community. 

Hire helping hands, if possible.

Work closely with your senior living community to find vetted senior moving companies that can make the process as easy as possible for you. Remember, you don’t need to prepare your loved one’s house for sale or empty everything out at this time. Instead, just focus on preparing your loved one’s senior living apartment to feel welcoming and comfortable.

Know what to expect after the move.

The first day at a senior living community is busy, but it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. When possible, work with your senior loved one so they know what to expect on that first day.

Ease the transition by staying connected.

Finally, you can ease the transition for your loved one by spending time with them during their first few days in their new community. At Cedarhurst Senior Living communities, our innovative Pair to Prepare™ program invites new residents to have a family member spend the first few days and nights by their side. This can make for a more successful transition for both the resident and their family member.

You can also encourage other family members and friends to connect with your loved one during their first few months in the community. Try creating a calendar so that your loved one can expect and look forward to check-ins from certain people on certain days. 

Get the tools you need to choose the right senior living community.

Coordinating a quick transition from a hospital to a senior living community can feel overwhelming, especially because you want to choose the right senior living community for your loved one. Get guidance about finding a good fit for your loved one with our complete guide to choosing the right senior living community

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*Originally published May 2022. Updated September 2023.

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