Long-term care providers are frequently faced with a resident, family member, or legal agent that refuses to cooperate and take necessary action. There comes a point in every interaction where you’ve given the uncooperative person enough opportunities, and you’re ready to take concrete action to resolve the problem. This is when you should issue a “last chance” letter to the uncooperative person letting them know they’ve run out of time, and this is their last chance to cooperate to avoid serious consequences.
Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind the next time you sit down to write a “last chance” letter.
- Create a paper trail. The last chance Letter should not be the first written communication you’ve had with an uncooperative person. Make sure you’ve been documenting your efforts to obtain cooperation along the way. This paper trail can be key if you eventually end up in a discharge or legal proceeding.
- Note your prior efforts to obtain cooperation. Outline what you’ve tried before, including written and verbal communications and meetings. For example, “When we met in your mother’s room on June 7, 2021, you agreed to bring in a copy of the Nationwide Life Insurance policy by 5:00 PM on June 11, 2021. We have not received this policy. I emailed you on June 14, 2021, and left you a voicemail on June 17, 2021, but you have not responded.”
- Be specific. Be specific about what action needs to be taken, so the uncooperative person can’t claim they were confused about what was needed or claim that they fully cooperated when they only did part of what was needed. For example, instead of saying “we need bank statements” say “we need statements for the BigBank checking account, account number ending in -1234, for January 1, 2021, through May 31, 2021.”
- Make it easy to respond. If you need documents, let the uncooperative person know all the ways they can return the documents to you and consider providing a pre-paid return envelope for return by mail. Make it as easy and convenient as possible for the uncooperative person to become cooperative.
- Set a deadline. Set a specific date and time for the uncooperative person to respond or act. Consider putting the deadline in caps and bold type at the top of the last chance letter, as well as in the body of the letter.
- Be clear about the consequences. Clearly explain what will happen if the uncooperative person does not become cooperative by the deadline you’ve set. For example, “If you do not pay the outstanding balance in full by June 25, 2021, at 5:00 PM, we will refer your case to our lawyer.” Or “If you do not apply for Medicaid benefits and provide us with a copy of your completed application by June 25, 2021, at 5:00 PM, we will issue a discharge notice.”
- Be The Boy That Cried Wolf. Whatever consequence you set for a continued lack of cooperation, be prepared to follow through. Sending letter after letter warning of the same consequences but never imposing the consequences makes an uncooperative person think that you aren’t serious, and the last chance letter loses its effect. Remember: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If it isn’t working, try something else!
If you need help with a last chance letter or if your last chance letter didn’t produce the results you’d hoped for, Stotler Hayes Group is here to help. Please contact Ashley Harrison Shudan, SHG Partner and Client Relations Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments about “last chance” letters.