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‘We Wouldn’t Have Thought of Any Other Place’

Janesville Family Finds Agrace’s Support Close to Home—Twice

When the Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care opened just down the road from his Janesville home in 2014, Gordon Beyerlein didn’t know his family would need it so soon—or so often.

But in April 2017 and again in December 2018, his family gathered at Agrace to celebrate a loved one’s final days. First it was his wife, Cathie, and then Cathie’s mother, Betty Luedtke.

Cathie, a nurse, came to Agrace shortly after learning her rare cancer had advanced beyond treatment possibilities. Gordon says, “We had a good image of Agrace, so when the need arose, she was comfortable with it.”

Unsure what to expect, the family quickly learned what separates the Agrace hospice inpatient unit (IPU) from other medical settings where people may spend the end of life. Cathie’s sister, Carla Agnew, explains, “After a very tough month, it was like being enveloped by care again. It was a home.”

“Homelike” was the goal when the Rock County community rallied around Agrace’s plan to build a hospice inpatient unit in Janesville. With that financial support, Agrace created a unique place for all local families facing the end of life.

Gordon’s family felt welcomed at Agrace, even when 20 of them were there at once. “No matter how many people were there and how focused the staff were on Mom, there was always a place for everybody to be,” says his son Jeremy. “For some of us, it helped to go into the family lounge to watch TV or talk privately or do homework—to take a break from what was going on just down the hall.”

Family members of all ages received Agrace’s emotional support. Carla remembers the moment when Cathie’s young grandson showed her the grief journal given to him by Fran, an Agrace spiritual & grief counselor. “He pointed to a picture he’d drawn and said, ‘This is how I used to feel, and this is how I feel now.’ He couldn’t say it, but he pointed to the pictures. They touched him at a level he could not express. That was amazing.”

“We didn’t know what we needed—and didn’t know how to ask for what we needed,” Jeremy admits. “The staff at Agrace just made everything happen for us. They made our life a little easier. It didn’t occur to us that there was another option than just surviving.”

The memory of that support was rekindled when Cathie’s mother, Betty Luedtke, arrived at Agrace just 20 months later. Betty had received palliative care from Agrace for relief from chronic pain before she fell and re-injured an already-ailing shoulder. Needing help managing the acute pain, she came to Agrace for inpatient hospice care.

“Knowing what we went through with Cathie, we wouldn’t have thought of any other place,” says Carl, Betty’s husband of 68 years. “I thought they were able to manage her pain better. They’d change her position several times a day and gently put new gowns on her. It’s amazing how they are able to care for people who are in such discomfort and may be disoriented.”

After two Agrace experiences, Jeremy says, “This is how it should be when you have to lose a loved one. There’s no way to make it pleasant, but this is the most supported way I can imagine it happening. It was such a gift that Agrace was there to offer that to us.”


Celebrating Five Years of Inpatient Care in Janesville

The Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care opened in 2014, and we’re planning a 5th anniversary event. If you live in Rock County, watch for news of the celebration!


Facing Grief without Support? Agrace Will Help

As a friend of Agrace, you may have had a hospice experience that included compassionate grief support for your family. Each year, Agrace serves more than 4,000 hospice patients and helps their many family members prepare emotionally for their loss.

But think for a moment about people in our community who are grieving without the support of a hospice team. Those whose loved ones died too suddenly to have hospice care. Children struggling in school due to sadness. Employees reeling from the unexpected death of a co-worker, or workers in service professions who witness death.

Agrace is here to help as part of our nonprofit mission, even when a death occurs without hospice care. Agrace’s community grief specialists provide support in many ways to people across our 21-county service area:

  • Multi-week support group series, including “Journey Through Grief” and “Spouse/Partner Loss”
  • Ongoing support groups for adults, and families with school-aged children
  • 1:1 sessions at the Agrace Grief Support Center in Fitchburg or other convenient locations
  • In-school 1:1 grief support and same-age groups for students 5 to 18
  • Emotional support in workplaces (e.g., police and fire departments)
  • Educational trainings for the staffs of long-term care facilities where our patients live

Little to none of the cost of these services is paid by Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance. We rely on community donations; no one is turned away for inability to pay. Your support of Agrace is an investment in a community that copes better with grief and experiences healthy survivorship after a loss. Thank you!

Did you know? You don’t have to visit the Agrace Grief Support Center in person to benefit from its wisdom. For tips and support opportunities—for yourself and those you love—“like” us on Facebook.


Agrace Opens an Office in Platteville

Friends of Agrace gathered in Platteville on March 12 to “cut the ribbon” on our newest office. We began serving patients in the greater Platteville area in late January and have already cared for dozens of local patients and their families. We’re also recruiting local volunteers to make companionship visits to area patient visits (see story below). Thank you to all who came to celebrate with us; holding the giant shears is Agrace CEO Lynne Sexten.


What’s it Like to Be a Companionship Volunteer?

As Agrace expands to the Platteville area, we need local volunteers to make companionship visits to our hospice patients. Viki Nettum, an experienced volunteer, says the people she visits most often enjoy activities such as:

  • reminiscing about their personal history,
  • listening to their favorite music with her, or
  • watching and discussing a favorite movie, musical or TV show.

“One patient loved classical music and wanted to be asked trivia questions. Another woman with dementia liked to play cards, and she made up games. We had fun trying to figure out how to win!” Viki laughs.

“My most memorable patient was a man who really missed making his bed with his late wife. On the days I visited, he would save his bed-making for the two of us to do together. He would reminisce about her and their relationship while we worked.

“Later, when he was actively dying, he asked that I visit to say goodbye. His daughter said he hadn’t been very responsive to anyone or anything. I went to him. He took my hand and said, ‘I knew you’d come.’ He said a prayer and thanked God for having an opportunity to meet me. He shed tears as he said goodbye.”


Frozen Tundra Wish Fulfilled

Francis Thompson, 86, of Prairie du Sac was a life-long Green Bay Packers fan with an end-of-life goal to see the Pack in person. But breathing troubles made it too hard for him to be outdoors at Lambeau Field. So his Agrace social worker, Betty, and nurse, Tina, applied to the Agrace Wish Program on his behalf.

On October 15, Francis and his daughter Nancy were in Green Bay, enjoying Monday Night Football from indoor box seats, out of the cold. They watched the game-winning field goal sail through the uprights with just three seconds left! In a tough season, a moment
of pure joy.


Rock County Diversity Award

Agrace received the 2018 YWCA Rock County Dorothy Height Award for Diversity in the Workplace. The honor reflects our broad commitment to diversity and inclusion, including innovative interpreter services, Advancing Inclusion and Equity Committee, and recruitment and retention practices. Accepting the award at the YWCA’s Racial Justice Conference were (l to r) Tami Kellerman, Agrace development manager; past Foundation Board Member Linda Krohn; and Brenda González, Agrace’s diversity manager.


New Service Brings in More Great Bargains

Thrift Donation Transportation Services - Truck ADonation Transportation: Agrace’s thrift stores have started a donation pack-up and pick-up service in Madison. It’s for people with donations totaling $500 or more (thrift-store pricing), who need help organizing and transporting their goods to the thrift store.

Happily, this service is bringing a greater variety of donated collectibles, art and furniture to all three Agrace Thrift Store locations. You can follow your favorite Agrace thrift store on Facebook (links below) to see what’s new! All your thrifty purchases support Agrace’s exceptional patient and family care.

Facebook for Madison-West
Facebook for Madison-East
Facebook for Janesville


Is 15 Your Lucky Number?

There’s not just one person who has won a car in the Agrace Auto Raffle with a donation of $10 or less—there are 14! After 14 annual raffles, this year’s winner will be lucky number 15. Will it be you?

Ticket sales for the 2019 Agrace Auto Raffle start July 1. Tickets are $10 each, and only 4,500 will be sold. We’ll offer three prizes: a 2019 Honda Civic LX, plus cash prizes of $1,000 and $250. The prize drawing is September 15.

We thank presenting sponsor, Zimbrick Honda, and featured sponsors Cost Cutters Family Hair Salon and Mid-West Family Broadcasting Group. For raffle details, visit winthecivic.org.


Upcoming Events

May 18Festival of Flora, Agrace Thrift Store, Janesville.

June 23Butterfly Dedication, Janesville. Create a tribute to someone special by purchasing a personalized acrylic butterfly (as a donation to Agrace). Butterflies purchased by May 17, 2019, will be added to the Memorial and recognized at the 2019 Dedication Ceremony.

July 1Agrace Auto Raffle begins.

July 25 – A Round with Agrace, Wisconsin Dells.

August 18 – Memorial Brick Dedication, Madison. Create a lasting tribute to someone special and support Agrace. Bricks purchased by June 1, 2019, will be installed in August and included in the 2019 Dedication Ceremony.

Proceeds of these events benefit patients and families served by Agrace. Visit agrace.org/events for more details.