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Author: Sunnymead
Published on 21 September 2012 10:00 AM

An exciting initiative has just been launched in Sunnymead Residential Home, Armagh that aims to engage the public in a nationwide debate about care homes.

Sunnymead has been invited to lead on the Northern Ireland strand of a UK-wide initiative called ‘The Big Care Home Conversation’. This project, established in the UK by the My Home Life team in association with The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, City University London, Age UK and Dementia UK, sets out to engage the public in a nationwide debate about care homes for older people.

Tom Owen, My Home Life Director, said: “Care homes have often been described as ‘islands of the old’. We want to change that. We want the older people who live in care homes to be right at the heart of their community and also to encourage the public so that they better understand the pivotal role that care homes play, the challenges they face and the kind of support that will help deliver quality care to older people.

Amanda Leitch Home Manager of Sunnymead Residential Home said “This initiative provides a unique opportunity to the people of Northern Ireland to have their say on what homes could do differently or better in order to improve services now and in the future. No one wants to think or talk about the taboo words “care home” but thinking and talking about them is exactly what we need to do. The reality is that people are living longer and a care home could be a reality for ourselves or someone we love. If a care home became a reality for you, what would you want that care home and the people who care for you to be like? Care is a partnership between the service user, families, professionals the community and our government. The time has come to increase public understanding and to share the public’s feelings, ideas and experiences with our politicians, so that together we can ensure the people of Northern Ireland experience positive support and care at the time when they need it”

Sunnymead launched the Big Care Home Conversation, in partnership with IHCP and Age NI, on Tuesday 28th August. The Lord Mayor of Armagh, representatives from the local council, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and managers of other care homes across the province were all in attendance and voiced their support for the ‘Conversation’. The Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey said of the project: ‘ It is now time to listen to what the public have to say about care homes and to take action to plan for the future needs of Northern Ireland’s older people.”

Also in attendance at the Launch, was Ashbrook Nursing Home Manager, Ann Keppler, who is supporting the ‘conversation’ in her area.
Several Sunnymead Residents along with the Lord Mayor released balloons to symbolise that for some people care homes provide new freedom and the opportunity to experience improved independence as well as to establish new friendships, opposed to spending long periods at home alone.  A resident in Sunnymead said “ I can’t wait to get up each morning to see what will be happening next in Sunnymead!”

Sunnymead have already been out in the community gathering opinions, and several issues appear to be common among the Northern Ireland public. One reoccurring issue raised by the public is the importance of stimulating activities for Residents both within and outside of the care home.
Amanda Leitch said “people who live in care homes still love, laugh, and dream the same as everyone else. It is vital for each person’s wellbeing that they can plan and look forward to purposeful activities each day. “

The Big Care Home Conversation Launch was a “call to action”  for care homes, service users, families, community groups, professionals and members of the public  to get involved in the initiative and to have their say on care homes. In addition it is a request for government to listen to the views of Northern Ireland people and to appreciate the challenges that face care homes so that “quality of life” can continually improve for our older people.

The initiative will run until 28 September. Information gathered will then be presented to the government at Number 10 Downing Street, along with the information which has been collected from the rest of the UK. The hope is that they will provide more support to care homes and improve services in the future.

So to get involved, or for further information, contact Sunnymead via Tel: 028 3752 3866 or email :

Alternatively, have your say online at

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575