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Lisa Bloomquist – North Shore Health’s Tireless Angel

Apr 07, 2021 06:18AM ● By Editor
Photo submitted by Lisa Bloomquist

Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - April 7, 2021

How long have you been working for North Shore Health?  

I started volunteering as a Candy Striper in 6th grade back in 1976. I started working for North Shore Health as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) when I was 16 years old in 1980 and worked for 5 years. I spread my wings and worked other places for a bit and came back to the North Shore and worked another 5 years as a CNA.

I started working in the Activity department in 2014 or 2015. Time flies when you are having fun. Currently, I have 16 years in at North Shore Health and plan on picking my room and gradually moving things in so when it’s time to retire I can just go sit in my recliner and crochet, make cookies, play Bingo, and chit chat.

Want to share a bit about how your past jobs led you to your current position?  

I graduated high school in 1982 from CCHS. I went one year to school for COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy). I didn’t have much money so I quit school and went to work as a CNA. 

I ran Sunshine Inn, an Adult Foster Care home, for 6 years dealing mostly with dementia residents.  I usually had one person at a time and me. I also had people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities. Sunshine Inn was good for the time being, but I realized I needed to do something different as I was lonely as I love being around groups of people and talking (imagine that). I worked at Hill Haven for 7 years and enjoyed being with the elderly residents there. Willard Nelson was one of these residents and one day I was cutting and filing his nails and singing if you are happy and you know it clap your hands. He would stop and clap his hands then I would start filing and singing again. Willard said, “I can see this is going to take all day.” We both laughed. This is what I love bringing joy to others.

I also did homecare called Lisa’s Senior Service for 13 years helping people live in their own homes for as long as possible.

What does your workday look like? 

Oh boy. I check for messages, our visitor calendar, who is in a swing bed, and what’s for lunch. I look at what happened yesterday, sort through mail, return phone calls and send out a thank you card. I check our activity calendar to see who has a birthday, what is going on for the day, where I have to be next. I make lists for my staff and head off to a meeting. I work on next month’s calendar, our getting to know me spotlight, and next month’s newspaper article. I try to check in with residents. It’s a great day if I have one of my dogs with me to go for a visit. Now there’s a phone call and I schedule a FaceTime while researching a dessert for our next happy hour. After lunch, I may make phone calls, get the next activity ready and there is always making sure we have enough candy and prizes for the next big event or on to Amazon I go to order some more. If it’s a Bingo day I may be out there calling numbers and chit-chatting, or maybe we are doing a craft project. I check emails again and take care of 10 other things that come up. At the end of the day, my desk is a mess, but a lot has happened on it to make people’s lives enjoyable and that’s what counts.

What is your favorite part about coming to work each day?

My favorite part of coming to work is all of it. I enjoy everyone I encounter and work with. I enjoy working on the monthly calendar being sure to get as much variety as possible to enrich the resident’s lives. I enjoy visiting with all our residents and spend time with whichever resident is our spotlight resident of the month to get to know them better. I enjoy helping residents have a more meaningful day. I really love it when our residents smile and laugh. Bringing joy and getting residents to laugh is truly the best part of my job.

How has the pandemic affected your ability to plan activities for the residents and yet keep them busy? 

At first, it was hard as I didn’t know when we would be able to gather as a group and with family, friends, and volunteers. Monthly planning was a little bit rough with all that in mind. I finally had to just make a go of it and find activities we could do as a group socially distanced such as improvising Bingo with everyone staying in their doorways. We started playing Bingo twice a week as that is something they love and we could do apart together. I implemented programs to suit resident’s needs such as the Daily Perk and prize drawings for those who choose to do the crossword puzzle on the back.  I had to buy new games and figure out how to do them differently such as dice and cards so we all have our own. I also started our Read to Me program where people call in and read to a resident via Skype or FaceTime. We do a lot of Skype and FaceTime with family and the residents. Birthday parties and Happy Hours haven’t been as much fun without all of us together, but we still manage to laugh and have a good time.

What is the saddest thing you have witnessed about seeing how the pandemic affects the residents:

The saddest things I see are having to space residents 6 feet apart at activities, no large group activities, no family and friends moving about freely perhaps sitting with a group of women enjoying coffee and goodies and laughing enjoying each other.  It is also sad not having our 72 volunteers be able to come in and visit. The only music we have is by CD and occasionally staff will play. Our residents are resilient tho. They keep on keeping on. We look for ways we can enjoy each other as much as possible, but we can hardly wait for the day when we can all be back together as one big happy family. 

What would you like to share about your personal life? 

Ha. I’m busy – like everyone else – I work a lot. I wish I could stay home more often and enjoy my animal’s antics. They are so fun to watch. I am often found researching new ways that activities can be held and how I can improvise activities we can actually do. My mind is always thinking and coming up with things. My staff just laugh at me because I come to work and say, “Hey, I was thinking………” and we do it.

 Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Cook County. I am the 2nd of 5 children in my family. I am a 5th generation Cook Countyite so I am as loco as they come.  I have lived in Wyoming, Maple Grove, and San Diego, but I always find my way back home. I have 11 chickens, 2 miniature schnauzers, which I bring to work, and a crazy cat. I love to paint with acrylics, do photography, go on mission trips, crochet, bake, garden canoe, fish, and mostly love staying connected with family and friends. This usually includes food. Good food. 

Anything else that you would like to add?        

Those who unlock your compassion are those to whom you have been called. I have found my passion. Thank you so much to all who give to us at North Shore Living whether it is food, money, trinkets, or time. We appreciate all of you so very much.

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