A grandmother of two who opened up her family home to vulnerable adults when her children flew the nest is in the running for a national care award.
Former housewife Chrissie McKenna, from Llanddulas, Conwy, missed the hustle and bustle of family life when her children left home and did not see the point of living in a big seaside home with nobody to fill the rooms.
With the full support of her husband Stuart, the 53-year-old applied for a role as a Share Lives Carer with national charity Person Shaped Support (PSS) and says it is the best decision she has ever made.
Chrissie, who has a grown up daughter aged 36 and a son aged 28, provides a long-term home to two gentleman with complex behavioural needs, and is so dedicated to her work as a carer she also spends three days a week as a companion with the PSS Trio Scheme, providing friendship to elderly people with dementia and taking them out on days trips, walks and shopping trips.
She is now the toast of the care industry after being shortlisted for the Promoting Fulfilled Lives category, sponsored by Boots Healthcare, in the Wales Care Awards 2019.
The national awards are organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales and acknowledge the exceptional work and dedication of those in the care sector.
Chrissie, who has two grandchildren, Chloe, aged 11, and Amelie, four, will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at Cardiff City Hall on Friday, October 18, which will be hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
“I was so shocked to be nominated, I couldn’t believe it,” said Chrissie, who also opens her doors some weekends to people on short breaks who have regular respite from their families.
“It’s an honour. I just think everybody who works for PSS and the wider care industry deserves a medal. Helping people to have a nice life is probably the most worthwhile thing anybody can do.
“I just think that I’m so fortunate. In the working world, there are hundreds of thousands of people going to work in jobs with no meaning and I just feel so fortunate I’ve managed to find a career out of something I love to do. It actually doesn’t feel like work at all.”
Chrissie, who has been married to Stuart, 54, a car salesman, for the past 30 years, has been working for PSS for the past four years.
“I was a housewife and then my two children grew up and left home. The house was empty. I knew I wanted a job but I wanted something that was fulfilling where you get a sense of worth and achievement and give something back,” she said.
“When I heard about PSS I just thought, I can do this. I had a chat with my family because it involves the individuals becoming part of your family and living in your home and they said ‘mum you’ll be great’. I knew I could have a positive impact on people who needed help.
“I feel like this has enriched my life. To give a home to people who perhaps wouldn’t get an opportunity to do the lovely things we do together makes me very happy.”
Chrissie has ensured the people she cares for feel as much part of the family as her own children and grandchildren. She has created a vegetable patch in her garden for one individual who likes to grow his own vegetables and encourages the people she supports to get involved in jam making, baking and other crafts.
Nominated by Joanne Roberts, Shared Lives Development Worker, Chrissie is described her colleagues as “one of life’s true carers”.
“It’s very rewarding and I love it,” she said.
“It’s also lovely to see people who spend all week on their own light up because they’re being taken out. You can really lift someone’s spirits.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.
“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.
“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.
“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”