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Hospice at Home Helps Amber’s Family, Friends Stay Close

Amber loved birthdays— and tacos!

When Pam DeGolyer’s daughter Amber was hospitalized with COVID-19 in November 2020, visitors were not permitted. Being apart was especially difficult because Amber, then 42, was born with Down syndrome. She had always lived with her mom, and she barely spoke to the hospital staff for six days—until Pam was allowed to be with her. After another six days, Amber recovered enough to go home.

“Amber loved people. She was a hugger,” says Pam, “She was a party girl! She loved birthdays, music, Disney books and her Hope Class.” Formed by families at their church whose children had disabilities, the Hope Class brought families like the DeGolyers together in faith to share news, have fun and support each other.

As 2021 began, however, Amber began to have stomach pains. Tests showed sad news: A previous cancer had returned, and her doctor said she had only weeks to live. Two days later, Pam called Agrace.

Home is Where Your Friends Can Visit

Around Valentine’s Day, a team from Agrace Hospice Care began to visit Amber at home.

“They were great at listening and asking the right questions,” Pam says. “If Amber needed a medication change, they were right on top of it! If we needed anything for her personal care, it was there. They brought a hospital bed and we put it up in the living room.”

“They made such good suggestions about how to position Amber in bed and how to move her without causing her distress,” Pam adds. “They were very sweet to her.”

With hospice care coming to her at home, Amber could stay where she was familiar (routines were important to her). Unlike her time in the hospital with COVID, her sister and brothers and her church family could visit. Pam notes, “Her brightest moments of the day, when she wasn’t feeling very terrific toward the end, were when people would come and see her.”

‘That’s What We Do’

One night, Pam was worried about a change in Amber’s breathing, so she called Agrace’s triage line. She remembers, “The night call nurses came out—at 11:30 at night! They checked herout and told me everything was alright. They never made me feel like I was overreacting. They made me feel like, ‘That’s OK. That’s what we do.’”

“I’d like for people to know what a help it is to have Agrace go through a difficult time with you. It’s OK to reach out. You can’t do it alone.”

In all, Amber and Pam had Agrace’s care for nearly three weeks. “I really feel like I couldn’t have got through this without the help they gave me,” Pam notes. “They helped my heart have peace.”


Adult Day Center Opens with Games, Singing, Lots of Light

Volunteer Sue Lehmann helps with a puzzle

In late July, the light-filled Agrace Adult Day Center in Madison opened to area seniors needing daytime companionship and care.

As clients enroll at the Center, they have a functional assessment to help our staff understand their needs. Agrace’s CNA dementia specialist also takes time to learn about their interests so what they like can be woven into their daily activities.

The Center’s nurse manager, Kewana Jamison, says movies and games were popular with clients in the first weeks, as they enjoyed bingo, memory card matching, bean bag toss, singing and entertainment trivia. She adds, “One client even taught us how to play gin rummy!”

More than one family emailed Kewana in the Center’s first week to say their loved one enjoyed their time at the Center so much that they asked to come back before their next scheduled day.

Openings Available Now

The Adult Day Center has openings for new clients. If you know a senior who could benefit from coming to the Center, please spread the word. They can contact us at (608) 327-7303 or by clicking the link below.

Learn More

Upcoming Grief Support Groups

Agrace’s grief support groups are open to everyone, including families who did not have hospice care. If your loved one had hospice care in the past 12 months, there is no fee for grief support. Fees for others can be lowered or waived, if necessary. Click the button below to learn more about these and other upcoming grief support groups.

  • (Virtual) COVID-Loss Support Group.
    Meets online every other Wednesday: 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. on 9/8, 9/22, 10/6, 10/20. Call (608) 327-7110 to register.
  • Grief on the Move Outdoor Walk.
    Meets at the Agrace Grief Support Center in Fitchburg from noon to 1 p.m. on 9/7, 9/21, 10/5, 10/19 (weather permitting). Call (608) 327-7110 to register.
  • (Virtual) Grief Support Series for Spanish Speakers.
    Meets Wednesdays: 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., 9/8 – 10/13. Join one or all sessions. To register, leave a message at (608) 327-7297 or email soportededuelo@agrace.org
Learn More

Waukesha County Expansion Positions Agrace for Future Stability

Lynne Sexten photo

Lynne Sexten, President &. CEO

The volunteers who founded Agrace in a church basement in 1978 may never have imagined their new organization would someday grow to serve people far beyond Dane County. Yet our service area has expanded steadily over the past decade, into isolated, rural communities that have very little access to hospice and supportive care.

Our latest expansion, however, is to a different kind of place—the densely populated western Milwaukee suburbs of Waukesha County. That’s where Agrace will begin to offer hospice and supportive care in January 2022.

It’s about sustainability. Nearly 90 percent of Agrace’s revenue comes from serving patients who are covered by Medicare. However, a Medicare alternative called “Medicare Advantage” (MA) plans are becoming popular with seniors in Wisconsin.

While it’s not the case now, MA plans will soon begin to include hospice care as a benefit. In order for us to provide care to patients covered by MA plans, we must have contracts in place with these plans. We understand these plans are more likely to contract with Agrace if we can serve the most populated areas of the state.

We believe serving Waukesha County will help Medicare Advantage plans see Agrace as an option to care for their members all across our southern Wisconsin service area. It’s a move to improve our long-term sustainability—to ensure we are able to fulfill our mission for generations to come.

Look for more news about our Waukesha County expansion in the next issue of this newsletter.

President & CEO


These Gifts to Agrace Can Also Lower Your Taxes

Stock or other Securities: When you think about supporting Agrace, have you considered donating securities instead of cash? Between avoiding capital gains taxes and taking advantage of full income tax deduction, you may be surprised how big the combined tax savings can be.

A gift of appreciated stock, bonds, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds may accomplish your charitable-giving goals while maximizing potential tax benefits. To make this type of gift, please see the stock transfer information by clicking the button below, and work directly with your financial advisor to make the transfer.

Qualified Distribution from your IRA: If you are 70½ or older, you can make a gift from your individual retirement account (IRA) to a qualified charity like Agrace—free from federal tax! When you directly transfer money from your IRA to Agrace, the distribution doesn’t qualify as income; it’s called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).

A QCD qualifies toward your annual required minimum distribution (RMD), and you can make this gift any time of year. To find out whether a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA would fit with your giving plans, contact your financial advisor today.

For more information about these gift options, please contact Marcia Whittington, chief development officer, or call (608) 327-7205.

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Seven Agrace Staff Awarded Nursing Scholarships

The Agrace Future Nurses Scholarship Program offers an opportunity for any Agrace certified nursing assistant (CNA) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) to receive a scholarship to pursue a nursing degree. From this year’s many highly qualified applicants, we have named seven recipients, who are pictured here:

These scholarship winners are dedicated to quality patient care. They often go beyond their regular duties to create memorable moments with our patients and families. As we invest in their future, we wish these talented staff success as they pursue becoming nurses!


Volunteers Return, New Volunteers Needed!

Although we had to suspend most of our volunteer programs during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Agrace is now welcoming back volunteers who feel ready to return to their roles.

We are also adding and training new volunteers for a variety of roles throughout our service area. Here are just a handful of the ways you could help us:

  • Provide companionship to our Adult Day Center clients
  • Visit with Agrace patients in their homes
  • Cashier or sort donations at our thrift stores
  • Welcome visitors at our hospitality desk in Madison
  • Assist customers at our Doc Rock Café

You can learn more about these and other volunteer roles and fill out an application here. To ask questions or sign up for one of our trainings, please call (608) 327-7163.


Are your health care wishes known to your family?

Would your family know how to make health care choices that fit your wishes if you were very ill or injured and unable to speak for yourself? If not, make time to learn about advance care planning. It’s a process of talking with your family about what health care you would want if you could not speak, and putting your preferences in writing. Every adult should have advance directives, even healthy people.

Agrace offers you help with advance care planning this fall

Agrace has trained people who can guide these conversations, free of charge. We can meet either one-on-one, or with your family or loved ones. Starting September 14, Agrace will host free advance care planning workshops twice a month. To learn about opportunities to participate, call Kelly Deneen at (608) 327-7226.