Moving into a residential care home or nursing home is a huge step in life, with lots to consider. The good news is if you’ve already selected your chosen care home and signed your contract, most of the hard work is over!
All you need to do now is decide what to take. We understand that it can be a difficult and emotional process, especially if you’re downsizing from a house to a single room and may need to part with personal possessions that hold happy memories.
To help take the pressure off, we’ve created this handy guide on what to take into a care home, with a list of the things you’ll need and tips on how to pack.
There are certain things that may not be practical to take with you and some things you may not be able to due to safety regulations or policies and we will discuss all of these.
The next chapter in your life is about to begin!
Visiting before you move in
The first step is to find out what is already included in your care home. For example, lots of homes provide residents with personal care products such as soap, shampoo, nail clippers, hairbrushes and toothbrushes.
Bedding is often provided too. All care homes are unique and include different things in their care packages, so make sure to check before you start packing.
It’s a good idea to visit the care home at least once or twice before you move in to take a look at the space you’ll have in your new room.
Seeing the room in person may start giving you a few ideas about how you’d like it to look, including furniture and decorations. Visualising your room will soon make you feel more at home.
Making a checklist
When it comes to what to take with you, we’ve made a checklist for the main things you’ll need in your care home.
Just because you’re going into a care home, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your sense of style! Clothing is therefore one of the most important things to pack.
You’ll need a two-week rotation of clothing for day and night, as well as activities and special occasions.
We advise selecting clothes that are comfortable, easy to put on and take off and don’t have special washing and drying instructions.
For example, delicate lace or proper wool garments may risk being ruined, as clothing is washed at a high temperature and often tumble dried. Taking clothes that can be layered up is also a good tip, as seniors tend to feel the cold more, even when indoors.
Some good examples of clothes to take include:
- Jumpers, cardigans and sweatshirts
- Trousers, skirts or dresses
- Tops, shirts and T-shirts
- Winter coats
- Night clothes, such as pyjamas, nightdresses and a dressing gown
- Socks, tights and underwear
- Slippers or indoor shoes
- At least two pairs of outdoor shoes
- Activewear for exercise classes and outdoor activities
- Special occasion outfits and shoes
Accessories are a great way to keep your personal style and identity in your new care home. Jewellery and valuable items like watches, rings, necklaces and earrings can all be taken with you when you move, in addition to accessories like hats, gloves, scarves and bags.
If jewellery or accessories are valuable, however, you may wish to consider giving them to family members to keep them safe.
Things like spectacles, prescription sunglasses, mobility aids, hearing aids and batteries will also be vital.
Frequent washing and keeping clean is vital. Although some homes provide toiletries, others may charge extra – so keep an eye out for additional charges. You’ll likely want to bring the toiletries and personal care products that you use at home, including your favourite soap and shampoo. Other useful items include:
- Hairbrush or comb
- Hair styling products, including pins and hairspray
- Shaving equipment
- Personal medicines
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
If you run out of any toiletries, you can ask visiting friends or family to bring you some replacements.
Bedding and towels
Care homes usually provide bedding and towels, but if you’d like to bring some of your own from home that can easily be laundered, speak to the care home before moving in. You may also want to consider bringing:
- Pillows and pillowcases
- Blankets, quilts or throws to personalise your bedroom
TVs and electronics
When you move into the care home, you’ll want to be able to contact family and friends and enjoy some entertainment in your room.
Some care homes provide a TV as part of the bedroom, but if not, it’s worth asking care home staff whether you can bring your own TV from home.
Any electrical items you bring with you will be carefully assessed to make sure they’re safe and don’t pose any hazards. Other electronic devices you might want to bring include:
- Mobile phone or tablet
- DVD player
Don’t forget to pack the chargers for each item, as well as an extension cord if needed. There are care homes who have their own computer rooms, so if you want to chat with your loved ones online, this may be an option.
Some care homes allow residents to bring items of furniture with them to make their room seem more homely. This is great for those living with dementia, as having familiar furniture around them can help them to recall fond memories and settle in more quickly.
As with your electrical items, any furniture you bring with you will need to be checked to ensure it isn’t a fire hazard. Some furniture options you may wish to consider are:
- Favourite chair
- Wardrobes or chest of drawers
Decoration and personal items
Part of moving into your new room is decorating it to look like home. Some care homes will give you free reign when it comes to decoration, so again, check with staff before you move in to see what’s allowed.
Artwork, personal photographs, ornaments, books and films will all make your room feel homely in no time, plus they’ll remind you of memories created over your lifetime.
If you have a favourite hobby, like puzzles, knitting, crocheting or embroidery, you are encouraged to bring these with you to enjoy in your room. Hobbies can be a great way to socialise with the other residents.
You can also arrange for newspaper or magazine subscriptions to be delivered to the care home.
What to do with possessions you can’t take
There’s not necessarily a right and wrong for items you can take to a care home, but unfortunately, there may be some items you are unable to bring with you, such as some of your own furniture for example.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to items of sentimental value. One alternative could be to pass personal possessions to friends and family to look after for you, or you could look at storage options, especially if you are going into respite care and the move isn’t permanent.
If you have a pet and your care home allows pets, great! If not, it’s time to decide who will look after your pet for you. Don’t worry, family members and friends may be allowed to bring your pet for visits, so you can still see them regularly.
Whether it’s you moving, or a loved one, a great packing tip is to label all your possessions clearly with your name. This involves any mix-ups at the care home, whether it’s in the laundry system or communal areas.
This is especially useful if you or your relative has dementia and may get confused easily.
You can also take photos of each item to keep a record of what you brought with you. When we say label everything, we mean label everything; from clothing to glasses, to bedding and personal items.
You’ll also want to carefully package any delicate or fragile items, such as photo frames, jewellery and ornaments to ensure that they are protected during the move – even if you’re only moving ten minutes away. Check that the lids of shampoos and body lotions are tightly screwed on to prevent leaking.
Finally, another top tip is to start the packing process in advance of moving, giving you or your loved one enough time to come to terms with the fact that they are moving and decide which possessions and personal items they’d like to take.
Giving away and saying goodbye to possessions and home comforts is often really tough, so try to avoid rushed, last-minute packing situations which can cause stress and upset. It might also help you to sort through your possessions with a family member or trusted friend, who can help you make decisions and offer advice and support.
If you’re now ready to move into your new care home, we hope our list of things to take with you helps to give you a good starting point and easily settle into your new surroundings.
Packing for your new chapter can be daunting, but family, friends and care home staff will all be on hand to help you with anything you need and answer any questions you might have.
Care services staff can even take a look at your packing list and make helpful suggestions. If you would like to know more about life in care homes or nursing homes, why not contact us, or take a look at our Care FAQs. Good luck!