Belfast Telegraph

Gloria Hunniford opens her heart on agony of moving sister into a care home

By Victoria O'Hara

Broadcaster Gloria Hunniford has revealed how her sister, who suffered from dementia, had to move into a care home as she had become a "danger to herself".

The veteran TV star said she had never expected or thought that her older sister Lena would have ever had to leave her own home to be cared for, but through her illness it "became a necessity".

Lena, who died in October 2010 aged 77, had spent around a year-and-a-half in a private nursing home in Portadown.

The radio and television presenter (73) said Lena, who had been a legal secretary, had begun to deteriorate but her husband and family had tried as long as they could to care for her.

"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," she said.

"My sister, out of necessity, had to go into a care home. I never thought that she would, or would have to.

"But in the end, because Lena had dementia and had started to try and let herself out through the night and leaving the gas on, it just became impossible for her husband to look after her himself. So she had to go into a care home in Portadown."

Gloria added: "So, of course, 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."

Gloria spoke out to mark National Care Home Open Day to highlight the importance of becoming aware of how they operate.

The intention of National Care Home Open Day is to strengthen the relationships between care home residents, staff and their neighbours.

Thousands of homes across the UK, including a number in Northern Ireland, are opening their doors today to encourage people to visit and see how they function.

However, it comes as it emerged a nursing home in Whitehead, Co Antrim, breached numerous health regulations.

It was reported this week that rules were contravened more than 100 times at Chester Nursing Home before enforcement action was taken.

However 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," she said.

"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."

Gloria, whose daughter Caron died from breast cancer 10 years ago, said it was important homes were "open and transparent".

"It (National Care home Open Day) 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."

For more visit www.national carehomeopenday.org.uk

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