WATERVILLE — Stacey Albert quietly went to work every day for 10 years, never imagining that one day her bosses and peers would nominate her for a national heroism award.
After all, her job caring for seniors with dementia was one of those under-the-radar-type jobs — unlike, for instance, that of a firefighter who saves someone from a burning building or a police officer who thwarts a burglary and gains instant recognition.
But to her co-workers and bosses at Memory Care of Waterville — a part of Woodlands Senior Living on West River Road — Albert is a hero.
They nominated her for the 2014 Hero Award given annually by the Assisted Living Federation of America, a national trade association with affiliates all over the country.
Albert was chosen as one of 15 finalists from 300 nominees.
Now she awaits the announcement in about three weeks of the five finalists, who will be chosen from results of online voting at www.alfaconference.org/heroes.
“She’s one of those people who every day meets the challenges of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in a positive manner,” said Linda Johnston, Woodlands executive director. “It’s difficult because it’s such a frustrating disease process and it comes with so many challenges. She has done it so long and in a manner that’s just amazing. She’s kind and caring, and she just has that demeanor about her.”
Albert, who turns 42 Friday , is a medical technician by title, but is much more than that.
She dispenses medicine, engages patients in activities and takes care of their personal needs. She also trains new employees and is a role model for other staff members, according to Johnston.
Aside from being prompt, reliable and hardworking, Albert exudes a love and passion for her job, she said.
“She’s definitely somebody that any one of us would be comfortable allowing her to do any type of care for our parents, if they needed it. I really feel very secure leaving the facility when Stacey’s in charge.”
The five finalists will be flown with family members to Phoenix, Ariz., in May for the Assisted Living Federation’s annual conference, attended by about 2,500 people from all over the world, according to Rick Grimes, the association’s president and chief executive officer.
Grimes said Thursday from his office in Alexandria, Va., that the finalists will meet and share the stage with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut and space shuttle commander Mark E. Kelley — both of whom the association also considers heroes.
Both Kelley and Giffords, who travels with two caregivers, will make presentations, Grimes said.
The association hero awards have been issued for about 15 years, according to Grimes.
Meanwhile, Albert, who works 40 hours a week and often does overtime, said she tries to make people happy every day.
“This is the best company to work for,” she said. “They’re really good to me and I think that’s why I’ve been here so long.”
After graduating in 1991 from Waterville Senior High School, Albert worked with developmentally disabled people and then was a home health aide.
She married and had four daughters, but then went through a separation — a difficult struggle as she balanced work and family. She lost her home but continued to care for her family, including a daughter with developmental disabilities, in a small apartment.
Now the grandmother of a 1-year-old baby girl, Albert is re-married to her former husband, she said.
A modest Albert said she was surprised to learn she had been nominated for the hero award, and stunned to find out she is one of 15 finalists for an award that recognizes her for doing the work she cherishes.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I love it.”
Matthew Walters, chief operating officer for Woodlands, said no one deserves the award more than Albert, who is patient and kind and makes a difference in people’s lives — every day.
“It is a great honor just to be named a national finalist, but we hope that the community will join us in getting behind Stacey and voting for her to be one of the five winners,” he said.