Alternative Winter Break – Jamaica, Day 5

At Hope Hospice in Jamaica.

By Kim Reynolds

Kim Reynolds

This afternoon, we visited Hope Hospice, a local hospice in the Montego Bay area. Going into this experience, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In what condition would the residents be? Would they want to participate in what we had planned for them? What would they think of us? All these thoughts ran through my mind as we walked up the stairs and into the facility.

Upon being escorted through the locked, gated doorway, we were greeted by residents as soon as we entered. A group of three or four were sitting in chairs along the wall. A woman with a short stature smiled at us as we introduced ourselves. A man with a physical disfigurement nodded to us as we talked. And another woman with her back hunched over her walker gazed at us as we tried to build rapport.

During our visit, we did music therapy with some of the residents, played dominoes with others, and socialized with those who could not leave their beds. Music therapy consisted of singing popular Christmas carols and hymns while having the residents perform different exercises, such as bicep curls or foot flexing, to the beat of the music. Not only is this type of therapy beneficial for this population to decrease frailty, but also to increase range of motion. It is worth mentioning that music helped bridge the cultural gap between us; for those in our group who had attended church, many of the popular hymns they grew up with were known by the residents. It created a great source of fellowship. The residents thoroughly enjoyed the music, as evidenced by one lady dancing and another man leading songs.

The Alternative Winter Break 2017 group in Jamaica.

While the residents were certainly inspirational, some general observations of the facility itself were noteworthy as well. There were no family members at the bedside, likely because they were all out working. Staffing appeared slim; we saw two nurses passing medications and one tech. One gentleman was there for partial paralysis. He had good resistance, and it appeared that he could restore some function if he had access to physical therapy. However, since none was available, he was bed-bound. He had a wheelchair at one point, but when the battery went out, there was not enough money to buy a replacement. This man’s situation reflects the public government healthcare system in Jamaica and what services are and are not available.

At Hope Hospice in Jamaica.

Overall, our visit to Hope Hospice was both heart-warming and eye-opening. I’ll end this blog post with a quote from one of the residents, a 101-year-old native woman:

“Always choose happiness, and never worry; for it won’t change a thing.”


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