Elderly share holiday reflections

mcneir | 12/14/2011, 7:30 a.m.

One of the biggest pleasures for the Christmas season is being able to travel home and visit friends and family. Unfortunately, many people are not able to take part in that traditional holiday celebration due to health restrictions and challenges. The Miami Times spoke with residents of the Jackson Memorial Long Term Care Center in Miami to find out some alternative ways the holiday will be celebrated.The facility currently has approximately 180 residents of all ages and is designed to house people who have chronic medical conditions or require extensive rehabilitation or recovery times. For 74-year-old Johnny White, one of his best Christmas memories is when he was about five-years-old. Living in Georgia with his family, White remembers when he saw Santa Claus for the first time. We went to the school house and got to see Santa Claus. [He] brought apples and he gave them to us, he said. But I ran away and [hid] under the house because he scared me, White said with a laugh. White has lived at the Care Center for the past six years. An automobile accident resulted in him having limited strength in his legs and the necessity of utilizing a wheelchair to get around. His expectations for the holidays have changed. I really dont have a home to go back to, said White. I was living with my sister, but I didnt want to burden her with having to take care of me. Still he remains in good spirits and enjoys receiving regular visits from former classmates at Northwestern Senior High School and a few family members. Masie Basiick, another resident of the Care Center, says the Christmas season is a time for celebrating with family and friends. The family gets together, drinks a lot of beer, wine and it feels nice, said Basiick, who plans to celebrate in the same manner this year. Other residents also expressed similar [upbeat] feelings about living in a care center during the holidays. They treat us real, real good, said Wayne Garvey, who has been living at the center for several years. I have no bad feelings for this place. Garvey, came to the facility due to chronic high blood pressure and a stroke that resulted in limited use of his right arm and a severely-weakened leg. The 51-year-old receives a few visits from friends and that makes me feel good. But he has no special plans for the holidays. Nevertheless, Garvey keeps busy by participating in the Long Term Care Center activities and is currently serving as the vice-president on the Resident Council. I have a couple of friends around here [at the Jackson Memorial Long Term Care Center] and that helps me get through the days, he explained. To help other clients get in more festive spirits, the Jackson Memorial Long Term Care Facility and the Jackson Memorial Perdue Medical Center were chosen within the Jackson Health System where all residents will receive gifts that include robes, slippers and other toiletry items on Dec. 20th. It [is] our way of giving back to the community, explained Kevin Andrews, the vice-president of quality and patient safety. By Kaila Heard kheard@miamitimesonline.com