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Nursing Assistants Bring Comfort, TLC to Patients’ Last Months

CNA Christina helps John shave

CNA Christina helps John shave.

It’s 6 a.m., and Christina Zajicek checks her email to see which of Agrace’s hospice patients she will visit today. By 7:15 a.m., she’s at a retirement community, helping Joe* get out of bed. Over the next hour, she helps him shower and shave, and applies lotion to his fragile skin.

Like most of us, Joe likes to clean up before he gets dressed for the day, explains Christina, his Agrace certified nursing assistant (CNA). “He just turned 100 and tells the most interesting stories of his experience in World War II,” she says. After the visit, she updates Joe’s nurse and orders the supplies he needs.

Like all Agrace CNAs, Christina helps patients stay comfortable, most often through bathing, dressing, repositioning, and mouth and skin care. Some visits include light housework and plenty of TLC: “I paint a lot of nails and rub a lot of feet, too!” she smiles.

The Eyes and Ears of the Hospice Team

CNA Christina makes bed for patientThe personal nature of their work lets CNAs pick up on patients’ physical and emotional changes. As the “eyes and ears” of the hospice care team, CNAs record details that allow the others—including the nurse, social worker, spiritual & grief counselor—to follow up with specialized care and support.

At 11:15 a.m., Christina is across town in Michael’s small, upstairs bedroom. She helps him wash and dress in his bed before popping in his favorite Civil War movie. His wife says the visit gives her a break and gives Michael an opportunity to talk with another person, which cheers him up. Michael says, “Having Christina here makes me feel better, feel good. She makes me want to continue to live.”

Later, at a retirement community, Christina and Mary, a staff CNA, use a mechanical lift to transfer Anne* from a wheel chair to her bed. With warm water and washcloths, Christina gently washes Anne’s hair and gives her a bed bath. She describes each step in advance. Anne, who speaks very little, rewards her with a smile and a little laugh. While helping Anne into a cotton knit dress, Christina checks her delicate skin for any new problems Anne’s Agrace nurse would need to know about.

Hospice Patient with his CNA, certified nursing assistant

John and Christina

The last visit of Christina’s day is to John, an energetic, charming WWII veteran. She weighs him, then helps him shave, shower and dress in fresh jeans and a plaid shirt. Throughout the visit, he’s lighthearted and joking as Christina works to keep him comfortable.

As she charts John’s care, Christina sums up her passion for her role: “I come to work early, I go home and I’m tired—but I never tire of what I’m doing. It’s rewarding to help families care for their loved ones. I feel fulfilled every day.”

*Name changed for privacy.


Make Your Gift: Sustain the Future of Care for All

care for all charity care endowmentThe kind of care Joe, Anne, Michael and John experienced in this issue’s cover story should be available to everyone at the end of life. That’s why Agrace has been working to raise $15 million to establish the Care for All Endowment Fund, a permanent source of funding for our charity care services. Over the past five years, more than $14.4 million has been donated by businesses, foundations and community members like you. We have only $600,000 left to go!

Will you help successfully close our campaign?
Your gift of any size has the power to bring comfort and dignity to people who are facing the end of life with no way to pay for hospice services.

Make a Gift

Thank you for your support!


Volunteers Offer Tips for Visiting People Who Have Dementia

Volunteer, LaRynda, listens to patient

Agrace Volunteer LaRynda Thoen visits with a patient at the Johnson Residence at Agrace in Madison.

“I feel the frustration when someone with dementia isn’t able to express themselves, and I feel their relief when they realize I understand them,” LaRynda Thoen says.

Like other Agrace volunteers who visit with hospice patients with dementia, LaRynda has found a calling in working with patients with memory loss. “In rare moments, one of them will say, ‘I was hoping you’d come today,’ or “You’re just who I wanted to see.’ I’m probably not who they think I am, but in that moment, I can be who they need me to be, and that’s very satisfying for both of us.”

LaRynda’s visits are a vital Agrace volunteer role. She and other specially trained volunteers have insight for any caregiver of a person facing memory loss:    

  • “Be upbeat and positive about what you are going to do together,” notes John Kalson. “Be patient. A touch on their hand along with a smile can help build a connection.”
  • “Take a smiling, slow approach to conversations,” advises Gail Gonzales. “Be a good listener.”
  • “Always walk into the room with a clean slate and be open to whatever the person might need for that day,” Rachel Langenohl suggests. “Leave ‘yourself’ behind. If they aren’t kind or say something that doesn’t make sense, you can’t be offended. It has nothing to do with you.”
  • “They may not want to talk or do the thing you had planned,” LaRynda says, “so have some ideas ready: talking, reading aloud, even watching TV together. I use my iPad to play music or show YouTube clips of old movies, and I can offer a hand massage.

Age at Home Expands Service Area

Age at Home serves Dane, Sauk & parts of Richland, Juneau, Adams, Marquette & Columbia counties

Age at Home now serves Sauk County, and parts of Juneau, Adams, Marquette, Columbia & Richland counties in addition to Dane County.

Seniors and other people with physical limitations can now hire Age at Home by Agrace in Sauk County and several adjoining counties, in addition to Dane County.

Age at Home by Agrace, our non-medical home care service, helps people stay safe and independent in their homes as age or physical limitation makes household chores and self-care too difficult. Clients can choose from a menu of services designed to help them with tasks that can challenge their independence: personal care, housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, medication reminders, errands, transportation and much more.

“When Agrace began to offer hospice services in these counties in 2013, we saw that people wanted to stay in their homes forever. But if the younger generations have moved away, many seniors don’t have enough family nearby for support,” says Julie Houck, Agrace’s chief administrative officer. “Age at Home’s local caregivers can visit a few days a week and keep a person in their home longer. We can help with tasks that get in the way of them living independently.”

Learn More About Age at Home

Free, Monthly Support Group Offered for Caregivers

Find support as you care for a loved one with a chronic illness or disability

Are you caring for a family member or other person with an ongoing illness or long-term disability? PalliaHealth by Agrace offers a free, monthly caregiver support group with both peer and professional support. Join us to discuss the challenges of caregiving and find solutions; share feelings, needs and concerns; develop new coping skills; learn about resources to help now; and plan for the future.

The group meets monthly, on Wednesdays, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the Agrace Grief Support Center, 2906 Marketplace Drive, Fitchburg. No pre-registration is needed; attend as often as you like.

Upcoming dates are July 24, August 28, September 25, October 23, November 20 and December 18.
Questions? Call (608) 669-7352.


Why Wait? Fulfill Your RMD Now

If you are age 70 ½ 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 HospiceCare or another qualified charity, the distribution doesn’t qualify as income. This is called a “qualified charitable distribution,” and it qualifies toward your annual required minimum distribution (RMD).

You can make a gift any time of year; there’s no need to wait until December. To find out whether a qualified charitable distribution would help you achieve your gifting plans, contact your personal financial advisor today. For details about making a gift to Agrace from your IRA, please call Courtney Polster of the Agrace Foundation at (608) 327-7139.


Volunteer and Make New Friends at Agrace Thrift Stores

Since adding a donation pick-up service in Dane County, Agrace Thrift Stores have more donations than ever before to sort, sell and—now—pack up! We are looking for volunteers who want to make new friends as they help with these two roles:

  • Sorting and pricing donations at any of our three stores (Madison–East, Madison–West and Janesville) on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or Mondays. Choose a four-hour morning or afternoon shift.
  • Packing donations for our pick-up service at donors’ homes across Dane County. Pack donated items to be delivered to the thrift stores for resale.

Learn More


Upcoming Support Groups

Agrace grief support groups are open to anyone who is grieving, even if their loved one did not have hospice care.  You can see other upcoming groups Agrace is hosting across our service area by clicking button below.

See All Grief Support Groups

Program fees can be lowered or waived, if needed. There are no fees if your loved one had hospice care within the last 12 months.


Upcoming Events

Proceeds help fund essential programs for Agrace’s patients and their families, such as our Care for All program, respite care and grief support services.