Writing a letter to a loved one in a nursing home may be the best way to brighten someone’s day. Loneliness and depression among the elderly is an extremely common phenomenon, and it's more common among people living in nursing homes and other institutional settings as opposed to those living in their own homes. Regular social interactions, including handwritten letters, will alleviate the sense of loneliness and isolation that many people experience at the end of their lives.
Who to Write To
About 1.7 million people in the U.S. live in nursing homes. How many of them do you think receive regular handwritten letters? Probably not many. So, take some time and write a letter to a relative or family friend telling him or her about your day, or your week, or your life. It doesn’t matter what you write, they'll simply enjoy hearing from you. Or, if you don’t have a family member or friend in a nursing home, sign up for one of the Pen Pals for Seniors programs that are available and bring some light into an elderly stranger’s life. When you do, it's important to address the letter correctly to make sure it reaches the addressee.
Why Write A Letter?
Why write when you can call, you might ask? Why use pen and paper when you can email? There are many reasons to choose pen and paper over other methods of communication. First, while many nursing homes have internet facilities, some elders may not know how to use them or just feel more comfortable with old-fashioned mail.
Especially if you live far away and can't visit your loved ones often, writing a letter or sending a card is a great way to show you're thinking of them. Sure, you can easily call more often than write. But a handwritten letter is something they can keep on enjoying again and again. It’s a piece of you in their hands, and by taking the time to sit down, write a note and then drop it in the mail, it shows you truly care. So, don’t underestimate the power of written communication.
How To Address Your Letter
Addressing your letter correctly is important to make sure that it reaches the intended recipient. First, write the first and last name of the nursing home resident you're writing to. Prefix it with “Mr.” or “Ms.” On the next line, right “Care of” or “c/o" followed by the name of the nursing home. The complete address of the nursing home should appear on the lines immediately following. For example, if your grandma is called Jane Smith, you'd write something like this:
Ms. Jane Smith
c/o Most Caring Nursing Home
123 Caring Street,
Happy Elders Town, CA, 98765
Now, skip your Facebook newsfeed, find a pen and paper and take the time to connect with someone who truly needs it.
- JNHR: The Journal of Nursing Home Research: LONELINESS IN NURSING HOMES AND ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES: PREVALENCE, ASSOCIATED FACTORS AND PROGNOSIS
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nursing Home Care
- Pennies of Time: Act of Kindness: Letters to a Senior Home
- Caregivers.com: BECOME A PEN PAL TO A SENIOR
Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes about education and linguistic technology, and has published articles in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at www.tanyamoziasslavin.com