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Taking Teaming Up a Notch while COVID Looms

When you are facing a serious illness or the end of life, you know Agrace will help. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to be even more resourceful to meet the needs of our patients and their families. Here’s how a few of our team members have showed the “Essence of Agrace”:

Michele KryshakMichele Kryshak, social worker

“At a nursing home that was restricting visitors due to COVID-19, Michele arranged to get a patient’s son in to see his mother prior to her death. The son and his wife were able to say goodbye and be with his mother as she died, and they got much-needed closure.”

— Brian James, RN case manager


Milda RaciunasMilda Raciunas, certified nursing assistant

“Milda literally ‘went the extra mile’ last week. She went out of her way to pick up a much-needed medication for a family from a pharmacy that was the only one in the area to carry it. The family had no means to travel and get it, so Milda graciously accepted the task. She continually goes above and beyond to help families!

—Megan Ashwill, nurse case manager


Lavar BrownLavar Brown, medical equipment technician

“The wife of a patient honored Lavar for his kindness and the supportive help he gave when he delivered oxygen to their home. Our patient was having some difficulties with breathing, so while taking direction from a Triage nurse over the phone, Lavar stepped up and increased the oxygen to help him breathe. Lavar stayed with him and his wife until our nurse arrived.”

— Heather Fritch, assistant care team manager

Becky Geoghegan Smith

Becky Geoghegan Smith, social worker

“On a Saturday in April, a patient’s daughter asked for last rites for her father. With COVID-19 and being a weekend, this request had added challenges. I called Becky, who was not only able to find a priest, she was able to reach this patient’s own priest. I talked with the daughter later in the day, and she was very grateful. Becky jumped in to put into place one of the last pieces of this man’s life journey.”

— Julie Stellmacher, Triage RN

Alison Jenkins, visit nurse

“Ali provides such amazing care. She assisted with an in-home patient who needed wound care for a long time, including during the pandemic. Ali continued to visit daily, providing end-of-life care and support to this patient and family. When I made a condolence call, the patient’s spouse expressed appreciation, saying, ‘You all were like family to me.’ Ali, thank you for all you do—even more so now with COVID-19—continuing to visit patients to make sure their needs are met.”

  Susi Sirianni, social worker

To support the compassionate care provided by these dedicated staff and all other Agrace caregivers, please make a gift. Thank you!


Death Should Come with Dignity, Not Racism

Racial disparity in covid cases bar graphOur country has been in an incredibly difficult state this summer. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose death in police custody touched off nationwide protests, was heartbreaking and unjustifiable. It reminded us that racism is not only a social issue, but a long-standing public health crisis, further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic is the single, best case study of why we need to combat racism,” says Faatima Khan, Agrace’s diversity and inclusion manager. “Its racial disparities show that we need to focus more on ‘social determinants of health’—the conditions and environment in which people are born, live, learn and work that directly affect their health and quality of life. In 2020, there are still systems in this country that stack cards against our Black colleagues, families and community members.”

As a health care provider, Agrace has an ethical and moral duty to offer the best possible care to every person in the communities we serve. We do not tolerate racism, discrimination and injustice. We believe everyone deserves compassion, care and respect, especially while aging, ill or dying.

Our donor-funded Care for All program is one way we live these values. It lifts the financial burden so all our patients can spend their final months comfortably, with dignity and joy. Regardless of who you are or whether you can pay, Agrace is committed to serving you.

Eliminating barriers to quality care is an active step toward an equitable health system. See more about our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.


Thrift Stores Reopen with Limited Hours, Safety Rules

When the Agrace Thrift Stores reopened in June, passionate thrift shoppers were back, following new safety guidelines. If you enjoy bargain shopping, please stop by (see our locations here).

In a normal year, the four stores generate about $400,000 to support Agrace programs like community grief support and care for those who cannot pay. Having closed for nearly three months, we have a lot of ground to make up and plenty of quality merchandise to offer you.

Stores are now open, but with limited hours. Our Home Store on Stoughton Road is open Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. Our other three stores are open those same days and hours, plus Tuesday afternoons. Shoppers are asked to wear face coverings and stay six feet apart while shopping. We’ve widened aisles and are limiting the number of shoppers to make distancing easier.

You can drop off donations during our new store hours. Please put clothes and other soft goods in garbage bags, tied shut. Put your hard goods in boxes or totes with lids. You can print your own donation receipt online.

Donation pickup services have resumed in Dane County, but we are not yet doing in-home pack-ups.

Please be patient as we adapt to these new guidelines. We look forward to your next visit!


New Staff Will Guide Decisions on Eligibility, Levels of Care

Dr. Jackie Yaeger M.D.

Dr. Jackie Yaeger

To be eligible for hospice care, a person must be seriously ill, with less than six months to live, and have a goal of comfort, not cure. But it’s not always that simple.

With illnesses like dementia, a long, slow decline makes it hard to know when a person is in the last six months of life. Then, once people start hospice care, Medicare covers four different levels of care. If a patient’s symptoms cannot be controlled at home, they may need to consider a higher level of hospice, such as “continuous care” at home or general inpatient care.

Two hospice experts recently joined Agrace to help us see that our patients receive the most appropriate level of hospice or palliative care. This is not only good news for patients, but level-of-care decisions also affect Agrace’s financial health.

Nancy Ryan

Nancy Ryan, APNP

Dr. Jackie Yaeger, formerly a medical director at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, is board certified in family medicine, hospice and palliative care. She is now Agrace’s director of hospice eligibility.

Nancy Ryan, an advanced practice nurse practitioner (APNP), is our new “continuum navigator.” Formerly with Rainbow Hospice Care in Jefferson, she will work with patients to ensure they receive the level of hospice or palliative care that best fits their needs and goals.

We welcome these compassionate experts to the Agrace team!


1:1 In-person Grief Support Available

Do you know someone who is struggling with grief? We are offering one-on-one, in-person visits for adults and children at the Agrace Grief Support Center in Fitchburg or our offices in Baraboo, Janesville and Platteville (no home visits for now). Other options are phone calls or virtual visits using Zoom on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

To schedule any of these options, please call (608) 327-7118.

NEW! See the wonderful resource Agrace has to offer the community in this new virtual tour of the Agrace Grief Support Center. 


Boost Your Well-being with Support from Age at Home

Eugene, Barbara & Claudia

Eugene, Barbara & Claudia

What most affects the health status of Wisconsin’s seniors? According to the CDC, it’s factors such as mental distress, disability, physical activity, falls and eating well.*

Your loved ones can benefit on all these fronts with the non-medical home care services from Age at Home by Agrace.

  • Interacting with an Age at Home caregiver can boost your mood. It’s great to have a companion to talk to, especially if you’ve been cooped up more than usual.
  • Exercise support can keep you more mobile, more independent.
  • Having help with your housecleaning or laundry may prevent falls and injuries.
  • With shopping and meal prep assistance, you can enjoy more of the fresh, nutritious local produce available in the summer.

Eugene and Barbara of Fitchburg signed up for visits from Age at Home in February. Barbara has limited mobility and dementia, so their caregiver, Claudia, helps with Barbara’s personal care three times a week. Claudia also assists with keeping the house clean. “It was like she was meant for us,” says Eugene. “She has been the best person I have ever seen to do a job like this. She was sent from heaven!”

The 2020 pandemic has shown how vital it is for seniors to have a support network to keep them safe and well in their own homes. Visit AgeAtHome.org to see how our in-home services can work for you, or call (608) 327-7456 with your questions.

Now in Rock County!

Age at Home services are now available to people living in Janesville and across northern Rock County (see our new service area map here). Call (608) 327-7456 to request services.

*Centers for Disease Control’s “State of Aging and Health in America,” 2013


Prairie du Chien Joins Agrace’s Service Area

Where the Wisconsin River flows into the Mississippi is Prairie du Chien, famous for its historic sites or nearby Wyalusing State Park. Residents of this Crawford County city (orange dot on the map at right) can now have Agrace’s hospice or palliative care.

We recently began serving the area with local staff members. If you have friends in Prairie du Chien, please let them know they can now count on Agrace as they face serious or life-limiting illness.


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