Assisted Living Wisconsin

What NOT to Pack When Moving to Assisted Living

What NOT to Pack When Moving to Assisted Living

In this article

Sometimes the most important information you need when packing is what NOT to bring. Like the girl who showed up for a 30-day wilderness trek with curling irons and straighteners. Not helpful.

So, what about packing for assisted living? You want Grandma and Grandpa to feel comfortable in their new senior living facility, and there are plenty of wonderful items to bring to help them with that.

But what shouldn’t you bring?

Frontida Senior Living Facilities, including Adelaide Place in Fond du Lac, provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.

The Big and Bulky

If Grandma has the perfect rocking chair, check with your senior living facility—it might fit perfectly in her new room. But that six-piece sectional? It won’t.

Avoid couches and large tables as well as floor lamps that could easily be knocked over.

The Floor Covering

Remember that whole “have a nice trip? See you next fall” joke.? For seniors, it’s not funny. We want to avoid fall risks.

  • Throw rugs are a tripping accident waiting to happen. Besides, if the color is different from the rest of the floor and Grandpa has dementia, the rug can look like a hole that he’s afraid to step on.

    Not a stress you need in your life.

    Meaning rugs aren’t good for senior living no matter where he lives, whether he’s at the home he’s been in for thirty years or his new assisted living facility.

    If it’s a cute meme rug that perfectly fits his personality, attach 3M tapes on the back, and make it a wall decoration.

    But get it off the floor.
  • Throw blankets could also be a concern if they end up cluttered on the floor. Packing one non-slippery blanket might okay, but no need for three or four.

The Pharmacy

Chances are, Grandma takes some sort of pill, whether that be prescription medicine, over-the-counter remedies or vitamins. In fact, that may have been one of the reasons you’ve decide assisted living would be safer for her.

  • She isn’t taking her medications regularly,
  • She’s over-dosing, taking them at the wrong time or with the wrong liquid.
  • Or she’s added drug store doses that interfere with what the doctor prescribed.

For her safety, many senior living facilities, including Frontida, take that responsibility off her hands, managing all her medication for her, or at least assisting in it. They ask her doctors to use their pharmacies, and they make sure all doses are given at the right time with the right foods.

That means you can leave all those orange and white bottles at home. Most of the time the caps are too hard to open any way, right?


Candles (and matches) are another tragedy waiting to happen. Even in a protective holder, they are easily forgotten or bumped, and in seconds, the flame can take over a room—especially if Grandma gets confused and can’t figure out how to respond.

Look for other creative ways to add ambience to her room and leave those wax burners behind.


Assisted living facilities know Grandpa gets cold, and they set the thermostat to match. That means the only warmth he needs to bring for inside is comfy sweaters and his own personality.

Don’t pack

  • Space heaters--Theycan cause fires and, depending on the type, release poisonous fumes, especially if someone forgets they’re on. And if Grandpa trips and falls on one, he could receive a nasty burn.
  • Electric blankets—As seniors age, especially with certain illnesses like diabetes, they can lose feeling in their skin. Meaning they can’t tell how hot that blanket gets. Or they can tell it’s getting too hot, and it keeps waking them up. Instead, bring warm sheets, blankets, and a regular comforter to snuggle under.
  • Heating pads—Ever seen a burn from a heating pad? It can blister inches high and takes months to heal, even if it doesn’t get infected. Again, there’s that loss of skin sensation, meaning Grandpa may not know when it’s time to turn it off—or may fall asleep with it on. Not to mention the cord that’s just long enough to tangle him up when he tries to stand.

Slip and Slide Clothing

Satin is lovely and luxurious for the very reason it’s dangerous for Grandma—It’s slippery. Put silky pajamas on a silky bedside, and you’re likely to find Grandma sliding to the floor.

Avoid slippery sleepwear that makes it hard to get in and out of bed.

The Bank Vault

Reputable senior living facilities like Frontida make every effort to keep residents and their belongings safe. But sharing space with others, there’s no reason to create temptation or confusion.

Once, my husband’s grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, thought she was eating at a restaurant for dinner. She went into her grandson’s room and emptied his wallet to pay her daughter for supper. It was a funny moment with no harm done. But it wouldn’t have been so sweet if it wasn’t family.

  • Keep all cash, checkbook and credit cards with you. The staff will let you know if your Grandma needs money for an event.
  • The same goes for expensive jewelry. You don’t want to think someone stole them only to find Grandma accidentally put the heirloom jewels in her pants drawer. Keep the valuable bling with you. If you take Grandma to a nice event where she’ll want to wear those diamond earrings, bring them with you when you pick her up and take them back when you drop her off.
  • Collectibles of monetary value. Same song, third verse. You keep them.

The Breakable

Sometimes special objects don’t cost a lot, but they carry significant sentimental value. If they’re glass, fragile, or breakable, it’s time to pass them on to a family member. Not only do you not want them to be broken, but if Grandpa falls or drops them, you don’t want him cut or injured.

If there’s something that’s breakable but gives Grandpa a lot of joy, take pictures to hang on his wall and then display them at someone’s home where he can enjoy seeing them when he visits.

The Janitor

Check with your assisted living facility to understand their policy on this, but Frontida provides all housekeeping services. Meaning Grandma can finally lay down that dust rag. Dance party!

So don’t pack

  • Cleaning supplies (at least at Frontida senior living communities).
  • Tools, such as screwdrivers and hammers.
  • Extension cords—you guessed it. Tripping and fire hazards.

The Used Bookstore

The latest issue of Grandpa’s favorite periodical and a few novels, biographies, or non-fiction books are great. But avoid stacks of papers, magazines, and books that clutter walkways. They get in the way of little toes, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. (Grandpa might not use the last three, but his friends might.)

If he has one magazine or book that he loves to read over and over, that’s great. But think lending library, where Grandpa reads and then passes all those goodies on to you and the grandkids to enjoy.

The Kitchen or Its Sink

For most assisted living facilities, cooking is done by loving chefs. (Frontida senior living communities are known for their yummy meals and treats.)

So not only does Grandma get a break from cleaning, but she can also quit asking, “What should I make for supper?” Celebrate good times, come on!

She won’t need

  • Utensils for cooking, such as can openers, knives, scissors
  • Toasters, coffee pots, toaster ovens or microwaves

If she loves to cook and bake? Frontida communities enjoy lots of celebrations where residents decorate food concoctions. (Check out all the event pictures on Frontida’s Facebook page.)

But the regular everyday meal prep stuff? She won’t have to stress about it anymore.

The Exotic Greenhouse

Many living plants are an excellent way to keep seniors vibrant, especially if residents are encouraged to water them and pluck off old leaves.  

But toxic plants, such as poinsettias? Not so healthy. Despite the stories, poinsettias aren’t deadly. But they can cause rashes and possibly diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting if eaten.

No one wants that.

And if Grandpa has dementia, what can and can’t be eaten sometimes gets confusing.

Talk with your assisted living staff to see if there are plants that would work to send. The home may already have quite a few safe greenery pots in main living areas for Grandpa to enjoy.

Risky Gambles

In short, what shouldn’t come with the grandparents? If it could be hazardous, leave it behind. There are plenty of items that can make their new home comfy while keeping them safe.

Need to sort through all your grandparents’ belongings in preparation for their move? Check out this post on decluttering their home without kicking anyone to the curb.

And check this list of what they should pack.

Meanwhile, contact a staff member to hear other ways Frontida can be a safe and happy place for your loved ones.

Check out these other helpful posts on preparing for assisted living.

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 6 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at