“They just touched a spot in my heart,” says Teresa Brents, as she reminisces about her 40 years working at Laclede Groves, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community in Webster Groves, Missouri.
Forty years ago, she never dreamed she would have a career caring for older adults. Back then she was working at a factory and planned to be a schoolteacher. “I had no experience with older adults. I went to college for two years to be a K-3 teacher,” she recalls. “I got laid off at the factory. My brother worked here first, so he said, ‘Come apply at Laclede Groves.’ And I never left.”
LSS trained her as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and she discovered a whole new world. “The residents were great, and I really liked it at Laclede Groves,” she says. As a CNA, Teresa provided vital support to both residents and nurses by giving hands-on care.
After a year and a half as a CNA, LSS offered Teresa an opportunity to become a Certified Medication Technician (CMT) at no cost to her. CMTs possess additional training to provide medication administration in addition to other care. “I took my CMT class at Forest Park Community College and the rest is history!”
While she was offered the opportunity to continue her education and earn a nursing degree through LSS Education Benefits, Teresa decided she wanted to commit to her role as a CMT. “I appreciate that I could choose my career here. I really like to be hands-on with the residents. I want to spend most of my time with them,” explains Teresa. “The residents are a lot of fun. You never know what they’re going to say or do,” she says. “They need somebody. We all need somebody. Once you gain their trust and they believe in you, they light up when they see you.”
Teresa also was a caregiver for her father for most of his journey with Alzheimer’s disease. That experience enabled her to fully understand the perspective of a family member who is seeking care for their own loved one. “It is so comforting to know that you can trust someone and have peace of mind. It feels good knowing I can give that to residents and their families,” says Teresa. “I’ve cried and laughed with the residents. I’ve cried and laughed with the families. They know you and trust you.”
During her four decades at Laclede Groves, her friendships with residents and their families have made a big imprint on her life. “When I first started, I had resident who was 99 years old who drew. He sat out in the front and drew a picture of the main entrance and wrote on it, ‘To my dearest Teresa,’ and signed it. I have it framed at my house now,” she said.
“Forty years is a really big deal,” said Angie Owens, Laclede Groves Director of Human Resources and Employee Engagement. “Teresa holds a very special place with many staff, residents. It’s so rare that we get to celebrate this longevity.”
In fact, her Laclede Groves team members surprised her with a party in her honor to celebrate this achievement!
Teresa has no plans to leave any time soon. “I just love coming to work to be with these residents and give them the care they need. And lots of friendships. LSS has been good to me.”