It’s lunch time in The Country Cottage and Lisa Berrios, a lead aide at The Chelsea at Montville, is transporting residents to the dining room.
While she makes her rounds from table-to-table, Berrios is seen comforting and chatting with the residents.
“Some of them think I’m their daughter,” she said.
Even though they are mistaken, it’s not completely inaccurate. Sure, Berrios isn’t blood-related, but after 17 years of working at The Chelsea, she’s around these residents long enough that she feels like family to them.
She knows each resident’s story, their preferences, their mannerisms and everything you could possibly know about a person.
Berrios never knew her grandparents.
“I have a lot of grandmas, a lot of moms,” she said. “I take care of these residents like they’re my grandmother, my mother, my aunt. I never had time to be with my family.”
Time that she wishes she had with her grandparents who lived in Puerto Rico, but passed away young.
Berrios raised her four children – two girls and two boys – on her own in Newark, NJ.
She played the part of mom and dad. (And on Father’s Day she said she gets a gift, too).
“It was a struggle,” she said. “I went to school at night and worked during the day.”
She was going back to school for her GED diploma, which she completed. She was also working to support her family.
Her children are now married and have children of their own.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a blessing,” said Berrios, suddenly choking up. “I don’t have any words to say because they are always there for me, they always call me and ask, ‘mom, how are you? Are you okay? Do you need anything?”
It’s how she was with her mom who sadly passed away five months ago.
Her mom, Delfina Berrios, had been sick for awhile and beginning to experience symptoms of memory loss.
During that time, Lisa took care of her.
It’s the least she could do as she had always looked up to her growing up.
“I was always there with my mom and I always paid attention to what she did so I could learn from her,” Berrios said. “It was very hard and a struggle but we made it through.”
GOING AND GROWING AT THE CHELSEA
That toughness is ingrained in her. She came to Chelsea after seeing an advertisement online and started as a housekeeper.
But she was always getting herself noticed in different ways.
She was eventually promoted to supervisor.
“The Aides would need some help with the residents so I would jump in and help them out.” Berrios said.
And they were soon encouraging her to go for a nursing assistant license.
“I said you know what, let me go ahead and go do it,” she said. “So I went and I did it and I’m here now as an aide and I love my job. I love the residents. I love the environment.”
For the past two years, Berrios has been a lead aide. And she believes this may not be the final chapter of her career.
““Keep going and keep growing,” she said. “I learned a lot here. A lot.”