PITTSBURG — A well kept secret made for a great surprise for Amber Brand, coordinator for Carrington Place, Assisted Living by Americare Lifestyle.
Amber didn’t quite know what her co workers and administrators were up to when they encouraged her to take the trip to the company’s annual Caregiver Conference in St. Louis.
“Everyone knew but me,” she said.
She saw her name pop up on the screen and then her name was called out.
Then the tears came — good tears of course.
Amber received the Caregiver of the Year Award, a top honor at the conference. Over 250 of Americare staff from 124 facilities attended the conference, having been nominated by their peers and facility residents.
The Caregiver of the Year distinction goes to one individual who best exemplifies Americare’s philosophy in the delivery of outstanding resident care and customer service, a release said. This award seeks to highlight an individual who not only provides outstanding resident care themselves, but has influenced the quality care provided by co-workers.
“Her nomination cites the adversity Amber overcame as a young adult and the difference she makes in the lives of the residents she cares for,” the release said. “Amber is recognized as a leader among her peers.  
“She has worked hard to achieve the rank of Customer Experience Officer as part of the company’s customer service training program.”

Amber — who has worked at the assisted living home for eight years — said the residents say she “wears many hats,” which include but are not limited to coordinating activities, training new staff, CMA work, housekeeping, cooking, posting to the veterans board, social media and much more.
It is the way the residents faces “light up” and the appreciation they share that motivates Amber to do what she can to help others at her job, she said.
Amber said she especially doesn’t mind because everyone at Carrington Place is like a family, and they will do what they can to help — from taking a shift so others could rest to consulting someone who is having a bad day.
“When I say family, it’s our residents and our staff members who all work together,” she said. “We lift each other up.”
Amber also praised her Assistant Director and Director of Nursing, who step in when needed and who are “never afraid” to let their staff know they are doing a good job.
“They make sure hard work never goes unnoticed,” she said.
She said the business is invested in every staff member. They support the people who work for them through programs which allow staff to “work their way up.”
Originally from a little town outside Oswego, Amber gave homage to her family who “never gave up on her.”
When Amber was younger and didn’t have school she stayed with her grandparents.
“That really got me into healthcare, I was helping my grandmother one day and she said I had a gift and I followed it,” she said.
Outside of work, Amber spends time with her family. Amber is married and has three girls. Her father-in-law also lives with the family, who she takes care of when she’s home.
If Amber’s day allows, she brings her daughters in to work. They play bingo, sit and watch television or eat dinner with the residents.
“My goal is for my kids to have compassion, to learn patience, to learn that some people may  need more help than others and that you need to have patience and compassion in the world,” she said. “I want my girls to know that you need to treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Her oldest daughter knows just what to do to help encourage two of the residents to come out of their rooms. The residents come out and they sit and talk with her daughter or watch her color.
“She would come straight in and knock on her door,” Amber said. “Another one, she would come out and sit and talk.
“Once she warmed up to them, it was an inseparable thing.”
When her youngest was just a week old, Amber found herself at work — of course to show off the new baby and maybe do a little work.
“I brought her in so they could meet her and to just look at her while,” she said.
Even if it’s just an hour these moments are good for the residents, Amber said. Activities like coming out of their rooms to visit with guests is important to the “Seven Dimensions of Wellness” which the assisted living residence follows, she said.
“Yesterday, they were watching my youngest carry around a bunny,” Amber said. “It’s a great experience to watch their eyes light up.
“To me it’s great because I’m showing them I care and that I’m open and they are involved and they are like family to me. I want them to feel wanted, to have children come in and interact with them.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. To nominate someone for Patrick's People send an email to patrickspeople@morningsun.net