A mum of two who turned to care work to stave off loneliness when she moved to Wales has won silver at a national awards ceremony.
Flor Nessbert has worked for Penylan House Nursing Home in Cardiff, part of Linc Cymru, for the past eight years and is currently the home’s Activities Coordinator.
The keen artist, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, makes it her daily mission to brighten the lives of her elderly residents and will stop at nothing to bring fun and laughter into their lives.
Her painting classes are now so popular they’ve had to be scheduled on multiple days of the week so staff can fit everyone in.
The 51-year-old, who lives in Cardiff, is now celebrating the fruits of her effort with a coveted silver award at the Wales Care Awards 2022 after being shortlisted for the Promoting Fulfilled Lives award, sponsored by Boots Care Services.
The annual event is hosted by social care champions Care Forum Wales which supports more than 450 care homes, nursing homes and other independent health and social care providers across Wales.
Flor was presented with her award by Carol Shillabeer, chief executive of Powys Teaching Health Board, at a glittering ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on, hosted by popular tenor, Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
“I’m very excited. This is the second time I’ve been nominated and I’m really grateful,” she said.
“I really enjoy what I do and wouldn’t change it. If my time as a care worker came to an end I would probably still volunteer – the need to help people is strong.
“It’s been a rollercoaster but in a good way. I believe very strongly my mission is to change the way people see care homes, especially since the pandemic. Care homes are not sad places, they’re just another stage of someone’s life journey. We have people here who do more now than they ever have in the past.
“Whatever I do is with my heart and mind of trying to make a difference.”
Flor moved to Wales from her homeland in 2003 after meeting her husband, Cardiff-born Nick, but she initially struggled with loneliness and admits to finding care work by accident.
“When I moved here, the road I lived on had lots of retired people. Many were widows or elderly people and so I started to make friends,” she said.
“I have no family here. I’m always looking for a family type of feeling and I really enjoy the company of older people. I started out helping the neighbours and used to do their shopping or take them to the hairdressers. Sometimes we’d go for lunch or I’d tidy up for them. There was never any intention to get a job, I just knew they needed help.
“I made friends with a lady and we used to have a great time. Unfortunately, she had a couple of falls. She came to live at Penylan and I started to come and visit her. I carried on taking her out to the hairdressers and thought maybe it would be easier for me to just get a job here.”
Flor, who has a daughter aged 21, and a son aged 16, initially worked nights on a part-time basis which naturally progressed into an activities coordinator role.
“If people didn’t want to go to bed we’d sing and dance or paint!” she said.
“I come from a family of creative people – my mother was a dressmaker and artist – so I suggested starting an art club.
“It started with three people who liked it so much, they asked me to come back out of hours after my shift to do another. Then it went crazy. We now have 20 people and I’ve had to split them into different groups as there were too many.
“It gives them a purpose. It wasn’t so much about what they created but the enjoyment they got out of it.”
One of the highlights of her career was when one of her poorly clients wrote her a letter and asked her niece to post it a few months after she had passed. It thanked her for making a difference to her life through her painting classes and the time she invested in making people happy.
“She said I’d given her a purpose,” said Flor.
“She knew she wasn’t going to be around when I read it. It arrived in the middle of the pandemic and really encouraged me to go even further to understand people and what they need. It’s almost as if she knew the hard times were coming.”
Congratulating Flor on her success, Edgar Bautista, Linc’s Head of Nursing, said: “Developing activities that evoke happy memories, stimulate conversation and promote residents’ dignity and wellbeing is a key part of Flor’s role. This was never more important than during the pandemic when nursing homes were closed to visitors and outsiders, and Flor had to think of creative ways of keeping the residents stimulated when there was limited contact with the outside world.
“She took on this challenge with great passion, and despite the difficulties we were facing, was able to create an environment where our residents could lead fulfilled lives.
“I am delighted that Flor has been recognised by the Wales Care Awards, she thoroughly deserves her place in the final!”
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.
He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.
“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.
“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.
“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.
“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.
“We take our hats off to them.”