She was 21-years-old and newly engaged when Sarah Beckius responded to an ad in the newspaper for a position at Hope Residence supporting residents dealing with disabilities. She got the job, wasn’t sure it was the right fit and decided to give it a month. That was 35 years ago.
September marks Beckius’ retirement from a remarkable career spent entirely at The Lutheran Home Campus in Belle Plaine— her first 20 years at Hope and the remainder in skilled nursing. The reason she never left?
“I wouldn’t have stayed if it hadn’t been fun,” Beckius said. “You have to be happy where you work.”
Originally, Beckius studied special education in college. A course in social work changed her focus. As a social worker, Sarah monitors the mood and cognition of residents, what they’re thinking and feeling, and connects them with resources they may need. She is a professional listener.
“Sometimes that’s the biggest part of my job. Everybody wants to be listened to and valued,” Beckius said. “When you come to the nursing home, it’s kind of tough. There’s a lot of losses involved.”
But her mantra is “The only thing that should change is your address.” New residents are welcome to bring anything that will fit in their rooms and encouraged to keep up with interests and hobbies.
“We like to ask people, ‘What did you like to do at home? How can we help you do it here?’” Beckius said. “You’re coming here to live. How can we help you do that?”
By planning a 102nd birthday bash, creating “reminisce” boxes to jog good memories, decorating for every holiday and hosting special anniversary dinners.
“Sarah demonstrates what a true meaning of a caregiver is by the time she gives the residents, the thoughtful outings and activities she provides and most importantly treating them like her own mother and father,” said Heidi Barber, director of nursing. “Sarah also makes works fun each and every day with her ‘jokes of the day,’ fun Halloween costumes, ‘Move it Mondays’ and everything else she brings to the table.”
In 2012, Sarah was named Caregiver of the Year by Aging Services of Minnesota — the highest honor awarded to Minnesota caregivers who dedicate their lives and careers to serving older adults. She credits coworkers, the community and families of residents for their help in her success.
“It’s just been a happy, great place to work. Everyone just helps you do the best job you can do,” Beckius said. “I can’t say enough good things. I must say I have met the most interesting people here.”
“Sarah has fulfilled many roles on our campus, each one with joy and compassion,” said Ann Robinson, administrator at The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine. “Her wisdom and laughter will be dearly missed.”
That’s not to say there aren’t challenges and sadness in Beckius’ work, but she learned early to see aging as a part of living. After more than three decades on the job, it’s time for her to do a little more living of her own.
“I have a few things I have to do before I can’t,” she said.
On her retirement list: gardening, travel with her husband, sewing, cake decorating, tutoring, time with her granddaughter and parents. And she’ll be back volunteering at The Lutheran Home, she said.
“It’s not so much goodbye as see you later,” Beckius said.