Letters seem like a thing of the past these days. Now, people text, email, or private message on social media accounts. Still, a letter is a powerful way to convey feelings and information. If you’re connecting with someone in a nursing home, writing a letter is an excellent idea.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Write a Letter to a Nursing Home?
- How to Write a Thank You Letter to Nursing Home Staff
- How to Write an Encouraging Letter to a Nursing Home Resident
- How to Write a Complaint Letter to a Nursing Home
- Nursing Home Letter Templates
There are many reasons why a letter is more effective than other forms of communication. For example, a letter is more likely to get noticed, open, and read. Emails, in particular, get missed, and nursing home staff may be reluctant or prohibited from giving out their email address.
Nursing homes are busy, and the pandemic has exposed numerous troubling problems such as poor infection control and chronic understaffing. If your loved one is in a nursing home, you both may have significant stress about care, comfort, and well-being in the face of declining health. We will go through the different scenarios where you might need to write a letter to a nursing home and some examples of each.
Why Write a Letter to a Nursing Home?
Nursing homes' level of care includes round-the-clock nursing, aide, and physician services. There is a lot that can go wrong, but often much goes right, and small acts of kindness can go unnoticed and unappreciated. A letter of gratitude to a nursing home can positively change someone’s perspective and attitude. Additionally, it can positively affect their care towards other residents.
On the other hand, when nursing homes neglect residents or cause issues, writing a letter is an appropriate way to notify the facility and take steps to correct problems. Unless it is an emergency (in which case you contact law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, or the Ombudsman program), start by writing a letter.
A letter can be a first attempt to describe the problem. It can also be a follow-up to a conversation with the administration to summarize your understanding of what the corrective action is. It’s a good idea to consider taking a picture or scanning the letter to have a copy if you need it later. A paper trail is always important when navigating a healthcare setting.
How to Write a Thank You Letter to Nursing Home Staff
Writing a thank you letter to nursing home staff should include several steps and parts. The idea of following these steps is not to constrain your voice, but rather get your thoughts across in a clear and heartfelt way. Of course, it’s also a way to get your letter to the right person. Follow our suggestions to make someone’s day brighter.
Step 1. Choose your recipient
Nursing homes have rotating personnel from nurses to aides, dining room, and recreation staff. In most cases, the aides and nurses have their own supervisors. From there, there is the administrator of the nursing home.
If you have a specific person who stands out, address your letter to that person. If you appreciate the entire department, you may want to address the letter to the department head with a copy to the administrator. Of course, you should get the right address of where to send the letter.
Step 2. Hand-write your letter
Honestly, if your handwriting is hard to read, skip the handwriting and compose on a computer, and print a copy. If possible, handwrite the letter because it will appear more personal. The art of handwritten letters has largely fallen out of practice, but it’s a beautiful sentiment.
Similarly, consider using nice stationery to make your note stand out. You can find nice stationery online, at craft stores, or in the greeting card aisle at your convenience store.
Step 3. State who you are first
Now, it’s time to write your letter. You will most likely be writing on behalf of a loved one. With that in mind, you can’t assume that the staff will remember your family member.
State who you are, your relationship to the person you are writing on behalf of, who the resident is, and the room number they are in (or were in). The more details you can provide, the better.
Step 4. Use an appropriate greeting
It is probably better to err on the side of being too formal than too informal. Use a simple greeting such as “Dear” with Mr or Ms. A formal greeting shows respect.
Depending on your relationship, you could use the first name only if you have familiarity with the person. For example, if this is something you speak to regularly, you can use a more casual greeting like “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Greetings.”
Step 5. Be specific with your message
Being specific means describing what the person did that showed care, compassion, and concern. Rather than using language such as “you did a great job,” use detailed descriptions. For example, you might say: “You took the time to help my mother make a call to me so we could connect.”
Much of the work of nursing home staff go without thanks. When you point out specific positive behavior, it reinforces that behavior for the next person. It can also lead to a promotion or recognition at work.
Step 6. Indicate how the gesture helped you and your loved one
Finally, explain how the staff impacted you and your loved one. For example, it may have reduced your stress or helped your loved one feel someone cares. When you dig for a deeper meaning in your ‘thank you’ note to a nursing home staff member, you show the value of the work they do. Each caregiver deserves thanks, and you’re making a difference.
How to Write an Encouraging Letter to a Nursing Home Resident
Nursing home life can be stressful, tedious, and frustrating all simultaneously. You may be writing a letter to a nursing home resident that you don’t know through programs that ask volunteers to write letters to help people cope. Or, you could be a family member who can’t visit, so you write letters. Consider some of these ideas when writing to a nursing home resident.
Acknowledge the challenge
Whether you decide to acknowledge the challenge of living in a nursing home does depend on the person you are writing to. Having empathy for someone entails recognizing that they may be struggling or lonely. Put yourself in his or her shoes to imagine how they’re feeling.
Be positive with your message
This might seem obvious, but you also don’t want to convey that you see their situation with rose-colored glasses. Try to be as encouraging, positive, and hopeful as you can by using language that reinforces strength and resilience. Everyone has these traits, but it can be easy to forget them in a nursing home.
Ask how you can help
Assuming you will write more than one letter, ask what the resident would like to hear about. They may prefer to hear about your personal life, or if you are a family member, updates on grandkids or others.
If you aren’t family, perhaps the resident wants to hear what is going on in the world, but try to keep it positive. If there are small items that they need or want, you could offer to mail those. Perhaps the person would like a newspaper or magazine subscription.
Choose between handwritten and typed
Handwritten is preferred since it is personal, but if the person you are writing to has sight impairment, then type using a larger font. You can make it more personal by adding a small handwritten note at the end of the letter.
How to Write a Complaint Letter to a Nursing Home
Writing complaint letters to a nursing home takes a combination of urgency and restraint. How you construct your letter does depend on the context of the situation. If this is your first attempt to rectify a problem, try to be cooperative and friendly but firm. However, a letter following up on repeated efforts may need to contain the next steps beyond the nursing home to resolve your issue.
Step 1. Send the letter to the appropriate person
In most cases, the buck stops with the administrator. Problems with nursing, aides, or medical staff that haven’t been resolved with them personally need to go to the administrator.
Find out their full name and the address to send the letter. If you haven’t seen any improvement in the situation, you might not have been contacting the appropriate person.
Step 2. Use a formal greeting
The administrator is not your friend. Although you want to be cordial, you also need to impart the serious nature of your complaint. Using a formal greeting like “Dear Mr./Mrs.” makes a strong impact right away.
Step 3. Include specific dates and names
Next, use the specific date or dates that your loved one is in the nursing home. Indicate their full name and room number. If others are involved, include their names as well. It’s important to be as specific as possible when creating a paper trail.
Step 4. Describe your complaint
It is critical to be as specific as you can about any complaint—how it happened, by whom, on what date, and the impact. If you have taken other steps to resolve the problem, state what those steps were, who you talked to, and the response (or lack of response).
You could be understandably angry at the situation, but expressing anger in the letter may be counterproductive. The same is true for threats. If the administrator does not respond in an appropriate and timely manner to your complaint, you can take steps by making formal complaints to the authorities.
Step 5. Include a call to action
Finally, include a call to action. In most cases, this will be a request for follow-up with a timeline. You want to give the administrator the benefit of the doubt and time to develop a solution or apologize. You also want to make sure they correct the problem. Ask for a response by a specific date with details on the plan.
Nursing Home Letter Templates
These nursing home letter templates are suggestions. You will need to adjust each letter to your personality, the person receiving the letter, and your intent. However, it’s helpful to use these for inspiration.
Thank you letter example
As you know, my dad John Doe has been in your nursing home since November of last year. Having grown up with him, I know how challenging he can be. He is often rude, and being in a nursing home has been the last straw for him. His loss of control has turned him into a bit of a beast!
I want you to know that your calm attention and care, regardless of his mood, have made a huge difference in his attitude and ours. He knows that he can depend on your steady support. As a family, we want to thank you for your kindness. We know your job is hard, and we thank you from the bottom of our thoughts.
The Doe Family
Letter to a resident from a volunteer example
I am a volunteer with an organization called Love for Our Elders, and I heard that you had to move to a nursing home recently. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to leave your home and friends behind. I want to offer my support and encouragement to you and would like to get to know more about you- your life growing up and beyond. If you can’t write and would like to talk by phone, I can do that too.
I live in Indianapolis with my family and spent my working years as a librarian. I love books. Are you a reader, or do you enjoy books on tape? Let me know how I can help, and I will do everything I can to make it happen!
Letter to a resident from a loved one example
It is heartbreaking for me to live at such a distance from you and not be able to visit. I know it is hard for you to talk on the phone, so I thought I would begin writing letters.
Everything with my family here is just fine, so there are no worries for you there. My job is going well, and the kids will be sending letters as well. I want you to tell me if you are having any problems at the nursing home, and I can help to solve those and talk with staff from where I am. I don’t want you to hesitate to let me know how you are doing. You can ask one of the staff at the nursing home to call me, and we can try and talk about any issues.
I love you and think about you every day. Let me know what you need, and I can mail it to you—anything at all from personal care items, magazines, or music.
All my love,
Complaint letter example
January 5, 2022
Dear Mr. Doe,
I can only imagine the challenges you have directing a nursing home with staff shortages and the stress of COVID. As the concerned family member of one of your residents, the same stressors affect us, and this letter is to bring some issues to your attention.
My mother, Betsy Smith, was admitted to your nursing home on December 16th, 2021, and she is in room 411. She is incontinent and requires Depends day and night. To stay clean and infection-free, I understand that she should be changed about four times a day. I can assure you this is not happening. When I go into the room, I smell urine. My mother, who has a good memory, told me that the aide is coming in at most two times a day.
On these dates, I brought up this issue with your director of nursing, Sally Nurse: 12/20/21, 12/28/21, and again on 1/2/22. There has been no change in the frequency of changes, and when my mother pushes her call light sometimes no one comes.
As you know, skin breakdown is a serious issue for people with incontinence. I am requesting immediate resolution of this problem. Please respond in writing by January 7th or call me to schedule a meeting to discuss this pressing problem.
Writing a Letter to a Nursing Home
Letters make a difference in people’s lives. And in cases where you are advocating for a loved one in a nursing home, they can spur people to action. Letters are a powerful motivator so get started by following our steps and examples to have a lasting impact.
No matter your situation, consider whether a letter makes sense for you. It’s easy to bring change in someone’s life with just a few meaningful words.