A scene of people with various disabilities gathered around a blue lake, enjoying their home, community, the out-of-doors, health, recreation, housing, transportation and education with an accessible path for them to a high mountain and large yellow sun on the horizon.  New Horizons Un-Limited Inc.


Independent Living

Guide to Transitioning to Independent Living

February 28, 2001

The following is New Horizons Un-Limited's Guide to Transitioning to Independent Living. If you have been living in a nursing home and you would like to transition from the nursing home to a more independent living situation or if you are a parent caregiver who would like to plan that your disabled adult son or daughter could move from your home to a more independent living situation, read this guide.

Transitioning to an independent living situation can be a complex and frustrating project. As there are many people and caregivers facing this problem, we are including this guide in the hope it will benefit our readers.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information for people with disabilities who are 18 to 59 years of age, and does not necessarily offer information specifically for the elderly.

New Horizons Un-Limited, Inc. assumes no responsibility in guaranteeing the services, programs or conditions as described. If you are interested in a resource listed below, call or contact the resource to verify the current situation. When using this guide, evaluate the information and make your own decisions.

Guide to Transitioning to Independent Living

To make the transition to independent living, you need to plan well in advance, know your options and plan for the future. Opportunities for independent living are sometimes scarce and solutions to care and housing may be difficult to obtain. Whether or not you are successful in making the transition, you and your family will have the knowledge that you have been able to acquire the best possible independent living situation at this time.

Transitioning from a nursing home, institution or family home can be a formidable task. Many factors must be considered in making the transition to independent living. How you will deal with these factors, the decisions you will have to face, and the choices you will make are as varied as, and dependent on, your individual needs and abilities.

One usually does not begin to look for something until one is at need. It is important however, to consider and investigate your options before you need to transition to independent living, as it may take a long time to get all the variables worked out to make the move to independent living. This is true for any individual situation. Many wish they had started planning years in advance, or at the least, began to consider their options well in advance.

You may enlist many people to help you with this transition such as your doctor, social worker, or disability organization consultant. Each of these people may help you make decisions, however, being informed may assist you in taking an active role in making decisions for yourself.

Many people have not planned for the future. One example is the scenario of the elderly parent caregiver who has taken care of their disabled adult child for the duration of the disabled parent's life. Some do not consider what would happen if the elderly caregiver finds he/she is no longer able to take care of the child or if something sudden and tragic were to happen to the caregiver. Without plans for the future, the disabled adult child may find themselves suddenly abandoned. Perhaps no one is aware of their situation or when found there is no other family member to take on the role as caregiver. The disabled adult may be placed in a situation where they are unprepared for their new environment which may cause great duress for the individual.

The purpose of this guide is to begin to plan for the future by assessing your situation, identifying your needs and identifying the resources you can access to help you in this transition to independent living.

The New Horizons Un-Limited website offers additional guides on some of the needs that are identified below, such as housing and finding a home aide. Our goal is to offer additional specific guides on the options for independent living in the near future. Continue to check our website under the particular topic of interest to you for more resources on each of the independent living needs identified below.

Have you considered all of the alternatives to independent living? Upon evaluating these alternatives, do you still feel independent living is what you are looking and can best meet your needs? Would a group home, adult foster housing or nursing home be better for you? Is Independent Living the choice for you? Be sure to consider all the alternatives to independent living. NHU's Guide to Searching for Appropriate Housing Options describes in general terms some of the alternatives to independent living.

Once you have determined that independent living will meet your needs:

Begin by assessing your situation:

The following needs assessment is provided by NHU with additional information from the Nursing Home Transition Needs Survey developed by Julie Alexander, Independent Living Coordinator and Advocate of Independence First of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is an excellent needs assessment tool. By permission of Independence First, we will soon provide a link to this survey when it is placed on-line. If you are interested in this resource, contact Independence First.

Identify your needs:

Adaptive Equipment

Basic Independent Living Skills


Companion or Homemaker Services



Health Maintenance or Rehabilitation

Health Screening and Care

Home Health Aides and Nursing Services



Mental Health Services

In-Home Services


Personal Care


Social and Leisure Activities


Identify your resources:

Identify your resources and begin to gather information from these resources.

Contact Family or Friends:

Doctor, Hospital or Social Worker

State and County Health Programs:

If you are over 18 and under 59, you may qualify for coverage through government financial assistance programs. Contact your state and county health and housing departments for these programs. Ask if any of the information is on the internet. Details of the programs may be available through your local library.

Local Center for Independent Living and other Disability Organizations:

Clergy or Religious Organizations

Area Agencies on Aging

Neighborhood Based Volunteer Services

Local Library or the Internet

Yellow Pages either online or local telephone book

If you have questions or ideas, information and solutions that you would like to share with us, contact us by e-mail at: horizons@new-horizons.org or to use our NHU E-Mail Form or NHU Community Discussion Board, click the links below.

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© Copyright 2001, New Horizons Un-Limited Inc.
[Updated February 28, 2001]
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