A handwritten letter creates connection for UK students and nursing home residents

As a pre-physical therapy student at the time, Whetsell says the assignment showed her the importance of reaching out and connecting.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It was a simple assignment. Write a letter just an ordinary, some would say old fashioned, handwritten letter, about who you are, what you do, or what you like and send it to a total stranger.

Something on the surface that seemed so easy and somewhat random, former UK student Taylor Whetsell questioned the outcome.

“I was kind of just like a letter? Like how is that going to make an impact or what is a letter going to do because i probably haven’t written a letter in 15 years” said Whetsell.

But, that letter had a big impact, not only on Whetsell, but the man she wrote at Lexington’s Homestead Post Acute Care Nursing Home.

“I had no idea what kind of effect it would have but then he was so excited in the letters just telling me all about his life and I could tell maybe he was lonely, or maybe he didn’t get the chance to tell people this” said Whetsell.

It even took Professor Karen Skaff by surprise, who created the assignment. 85 of her students wrote letters to the Homestead Nursing Home.

“It really did surprise me when folks started writing back and the staff said this is a wonderful opportunity for those folks to really experience, at least, improve their quality of life for at least a day or an hour when they were reading their letter” said Skaff.

As a pre-physical therapy student at the time, Whetsell says the assignment showed her the importance of reaching out and connecting.

“What if, as a future provider and I am doing tele-heath or I am online. You have to be able to make that connection through a screen or even through a letter” added Whetsell.

And that was just the goal Professor Skaff had in mind with the assignment.

“These students are all rising seniors. So they are off to medicine or pharmacy or dentistry, so they’ll look back on this and they’ll remember writing a letter to residents of a nursing home and hopefully it will encourage them to stay connected in perhaps a more interesting way other than just their patient” added Skaff.

Professor Skaff’s next class will get the chance to interact with the people in-person at homestead care if COVID allows.

The students are scheduled to meet them in March for a Mardi-Gras celebration, and making Mardi-Gras masks.

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