Gloria Hunniford has used National Care Home Open Week to underline the trauma of families having to place beloved relatives into care.
The Portadown-born radio and TV presenter had told of the family’s tortured decision of having to move her elder sister Lena Cinnamond into a care home due to the fact that she was suffering from dementia and could not be left on her own.
It was especially traumatic as Lena – a highly-intelligent legal secretary who died in October 2010, aged 77 – had worked into her 70s. It was often said that her legal brain matched local solicitors for whom she worked.
Lena and Gloria (73) were always very close, and – following in the footsteps of their late mother May – were expert cooks. They produced a joint ‘Family Cook Book’ of Irish recipes in 1995, which soared to the top of the UK best sellers. And, once or twice, Lena appeared as a joint presenter with Gloria on TV, showing that she had “the gift of the gab” in equal measure with her famous sister. She was a natural.
Some 18 months before her death, Lena was placed, with great reluctance, into a care home in the Gilford Road area of Portadown, close to her own home.
She told the Belfast Telegraph, “Because of the closeness of Irish families, we do have that tradition of trying to look after our own families as long as we can. Lena, out of necessity, had to go into a care home.
“I never in a way expected that Lena would have to go into a home, but it just became necessary because she became a danger to herself, because of her dementia.”
The intention of National Care Home Open Week is to strengthen the relationships between care home residents, staff and their neighbours. And Gloria, a National Care Home Open Day ambassador, said despite such cases emerging there were many good homes that provided excellent care.
“We do hear horror stories in the news, but we don’t hear about the wonderful work care homes do all over the country. I had to live in a care home for a week as part of a BBC documentary. I dreaded the very thought of it, but I think the standard of care homes are all the time improving.
“It (National Care Home Open Week) may even encourage a few people to think about volunteering to do something during the rest of the year to support and befriend residents in the care homes.”