“I first knew the care sector suited me after meeting Michael*. He was a very challenging gentleman, who had difficulties with communication. He was often frustrated and aggressive – but I couldn’t give up on him – I wanted to find a way to connect.”
Taryna Ansell first entered the care sector as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities when she moved to Clacton-on-Sea 19 years ago. She realised early on that she thrived on a challenge: “Michael hated having a wash – it was a constant flashpoint and his support workers struggled to coax him to engage with the most basic daily aspects of life, like washing.”
Now working as activities co-ordinator at Edensor Care Centre, a home for elderly with nursing and dementia needs in Clacton-on-Sea, Taryna was highly commended at the Great British Care awards East of England when judges noted: “Taryna is caring through and through. She goes above and beyond to provide meaningful activities to each one of the residents. An absolute asset to the sector.”
Her dedication and determination has seen her make a positive impact to the lives of many over the years, including Michael.
“One day I asked if I could sit near him and have a little chat, to calm him. After a while, he seemed happy for me to be there, so I seized the moment and gently asked: ‘Do you think you might like a nice warm bath?’ To my surprise he agreed – it might seem like such a small thing but it was a huge breakthrough – I had earned his trust. I realised then that care was where I was destined to be and I’ve never looked back.”
Taryna went on to work as a hospital healthcare assistant delivering end of life care – a role which sparked an enduring passion.
“I cannot think of a greater honour than to support a person through their final moments in life. It can be frightening but having someone there, offering comfort and calm can make so much difference.”
Taryna is now working towards achieving the Gold Standard Framework in end of life care at Edensor Care Centre, run by the charity Diagrama Foundation. Many Edensor residents come from social care and have no relatives or visitors. Taryna works tirelessly to ensure they are not lonely and are kept engaged: “I cannot think of anything worse than spending the last days and hours of your life alone, so we try to make sure everyone has someone with them at this time. I’d rather be called in, in the middle of the night, than for someone to die alone.”
A trained aromatherapist, Taryna has been using this to boost residents’ wellbeing, relieve discomfort, and reduce pain. She has also organised monthly pamper days at the home to give residents the VIP treatment and help them feel special – often volunteering her own time.
She now has a pivotal role at Edensor in introducing the Montessori Method of Dementia and Aged Care – an innovative person-centred approach widely practised across the US, Canada and Australia which has had significant positive outcomes – including improving quality of life and significantly reducing the need for anti-psychotic drugs and sedatives.
“It is such an exciting time for residents at Edensor. This new approach will really personalise the care they receive, help to protect their memories and keep people active and engaged for longer.”
Taryna believes the secret to great care is being non-judgemental and person-centred. “We come from all walks of life but underneath we are all humans and deserve to the treated with dignity. And good listening is crucial – taking time to understand who that person really is, what is important to them and what has shaped their life – so we can make sure their experience focuses on them as much as possible.”