Marengo resident Theresa Miller believes every person exists for a reason. And she knows that her reason is to love and to help people.
Miller is a nurse at Sheltered Village in Woodstock, a residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Miller has been enriching the lives of the more than 90 residents almost every day for 16 years.
“I love going to work and being with my patients. I love to make them smile,” she said. “I go in with a positive attitude. I’m always trying to be silly. I dress up for every holiday and jump around, and love to give the residents a little bit of happiness.”
Miller does much more than administer medication and give medical treatments to the residents. She wears many hats at the facility, including stepping in for administrators when necessary.
Each day is different, which is what makes the job so special to Miller. Some of the residents are higher-functioning and simply need reminders to take their medications, while others have profound disabilities and need complete care, she explained.
“There are challenging days,” she said. “Sometimes, [the residents] don’t want you around, but there are days when they tell you how much they love you, and you can’t help but love them back. But when one passes away, it’s horrible.”
Miller began working as a nurse in 1983 after graduating from the Rockford School of Nursing, and has worked in residential nursing for most of her career. She said she’s always known she wanted to be nurse, even as a young child.
“I was always running around, helping people in my neighborhood growing up,” she said. “It made me happy to know that I was helping the elderly people in my town. I never wanted people to struggle or be uncomfortable. Everyone deserves the best life they can have. Nursing is a calling. You have to want to do what you do. If you go in half-heartedly, you won’t be a good nurse.”
Lauren Schlendorf, Sheltered Village business manager, said she’s worked with many nurses, but Miller stands out for her selfless dedication to her patients.
“She works really hard and she’s always running around, taking care of anything that needs to be done,” Schlendorf said. “She does so much extra. If she sees something that’s not being done, she’ll take the initiative. The residents love her. She’s always kind, patient and understanding.”
Miller’s stepdaughter, Amanda Kumm, worked with Miller for a few years at Sheltered Village. Kumm said Miller is one of the most caring people she knows.
“It’s about the way she treats the residents. She’s unbelievably kind and she’s able to cater to each resident’s needs,” Kumm said. “It’s a hard environment to work in, but she always goes above and beyond. She’s remarkable and she’s very humble. She doesn’t realize how special she is.”
Miller said being a nurse is a calling, and believes her passion for helping others makes her a good nurse.
“I can’t imagine not doing what I do or going to a job just to make money. For me, it’s about trying to make sure my patients are as well cared for as possible,” she said.