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Meinkes’ Movie Marathon Honors Sweet Son’s Memory

Kellan and his movies

Shortly after their son was born, Vanessa and Jesse Meinke began to worry that he continually dropped below birth weight. After many hospital visits, they learned that baby Kellan’s digestive system was unable to tolerate feedings, which caused severe pain, vomiting and seizures. The condition was so rare that a diagnosis has yet to be found.

Eventually, Kellan began to receive nutrients intravenously and he thrived. He quickly grew into the sweet, playful boy that everyone remembers. He loved watching movies, cheering on the Packers and playing with his two older sisters. Despite the pain he felt every day, he smiled easily and called everyone he met “friend,” Vanessa remembers.

Sadly, Kellan was unable to overcome his rare condition. He was only six when he died on August 28, 2017, in the comfort of his own living room with his parents, sisters and Agrace Hospice Care team by his side.

“Losing Kellan took all the color out of the world. It was hard to find any purpose without him,” says Vanessa. Christmas Day 2017 was the difficult, pivotal day she decided to enlist the Agrace Grief Support Center’s help. Determined to break through the isolation of the family’s grief, she hoped to find a way for them to connect with others and process their emotions.

Support for Grieving Families

“There are so many situations when you have to tuck away your grief. It’s there all the time, but you don’t always get to acknowledge it. As soon as you walk through the doors of the Center, you can meet your grief wherever it is that day,” Vanessa explains.

The Meinkes enrolled in Agrace’s Family Program, which supports both grieving children and their parents/main caregivers. Grouped by age, children participate in therapeutic activities like art and imaginative play, while the adults meet separately. Sharing a meal provided by Agrace helps the families connect and gives them a much-needed break from meal preparation.

The Family Program gave the Meinkes space to talk about Kellan and learn healthy coping mechanisms for daily life—and for special times like holidays and birthdays. Now, on each passing birthday and “lossiversary,” the Meinkes honor Kellan’s life by holding “Bubby’s Movie Marathon” in their living room, a tradition they started in Kellan’s final weeks of life to bring him comfort. They watch some of his favorite flicks, along with new movies he would surely have loved. They find it the perfect way to honor their grief in the very place where Kellan took his last breath.


Upcoming Grief Groups Address Community Needs

In-person 1:1 support returns

In Summer 2021, Agrace is offering several grief support programs designed to meet the needs of people across southern Wisconsin. For now, support groups are being offered virtually (by video chat on a computer or mobile device). Adults can schedule in-person one-on-one support, or use phone and video chat options.

“We want to be sure we’re offering support to everyone grieving a death, because the pandemic has added to people’s distress,” says Jessie Shiveler, community grief manager.

Agrace’s grief support groups are open to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether the person who died had hospice care. There is no fee for using Agrace’s grief support programs if your loved one had hospice care in the past 12 months. Fees for others can be lowered or waived, if necessary.

Call (608) 327-7110 to schedule 1:1 support or to register for any of these virtual groups:

Bridges Grief Support Group. Meets every other Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. on June 9 & 23, July 7 & 21, August 4 & 18.

LGBTQ+ Spouse/Partner Loss. Meets Tuesdays, July 20 – August 24; 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Young Adult Grief Support Group. Meets Tuesdays in August, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Learn More

For Edda, Singen Macht Freude

Edda watches a Zoom chat of Maddi singing and reading in German

(Singing Makes You Happy)

Edda, who is staying at the Agrace Hospice Memory Care Suites this spring, was born and raised in West Germany. She learned to speak English in high school, and after emigrating to the United States in 1962, she went on to earn a doctorate degree at Oklahoma State University. She was an adjunct professor of history for several years. Though she speaks English, because of her memory loss, she communicates best in her native German.

Patients whose native language is not English often face communication barriers in health care settings. Memory loss may leave them even more confused and isolated. To help Edda feel more at home and connected, Agrace’s staff arranged for a volunteer, Maddi, to read German stories and sing traditional German songs to Edda via Zoom, and she was entranced by it!

Edda’s daughter Andrea says, “I am so glad to know that even when her children can’t be there, my mom is having the kinds of experiences that have always mattered the most to her: hearing stories and songs, looking into the eyes of people who are kind and caring.”



Showering Patients with Compassion

Agrace CNA Elyssa Stichauf

Taking a shower is a simple, uneventful task for most people, but when a person has advanced dementia, it can be scary and stressful. So how can Agrace help our patients stay calm, clean and comfortable?

Certified Nursing Assistant Elyssa Stichauf has the knack. She was recently recognized by Ally McDermott, hospice nurse case manager, for her skill during this common, but tricky task:

“Elyssa used calm and soothing behavior when helping her patient, who was newly transitioned to using a Hoyer lift, into the shower,” Ally says. “A patient who typically refused bathing and would become combative was accepting of Elyssa’s care and actually enjoyed the shower! Afterward, Elyssa curled the patient’s hair, as she used to do it years ago. The patient never looked happier.”

Thank you, Elyssa, for showing compassion and taking the extra time to make your patient feel beautiful!


Housekeeping Helps Agrace Feel Like Home

Agrace Housekeeper Aferdita Alinj makes an inpatient room ready for an arriving hospice patient.

They enter each room with a mission:  Clean it top to bottom, circling from the entrance around to the exit. Disinfect every surface and make the bed with fresh linens. Prepare it for a new arrival—a hospice patient coming in to get relief from symptoms like pain or trouble breathing.

Agrace’s nine housekeepers then go to occupied rooms, working in the presence of patients who may be in life’s final days or hours.

“Safety, cleanliness and human interaction are all critical to the care Agrace provides,” says Amy Ketterer, housekeeping manager for our two hospice inpatient units. “Our housekeepers’ priority is to stay ahead of patients’ needs and to keep the entire building clean, so people feel comfortable here through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We balance that priority with compassion for our patients,” Amy continues. “When you walk into a patient’s room to clean, you are one of the handful of people they may see during the day, a recurring visitor. You are likely to get to know them. We do our best to listen and be ‘present,’ for them—even as we’re mopping out the door.”

After 14 years as an Agrace housekeeper, Aferdita Alinj feels a calling to her role: “My heart wants to be here. I’m so happy to help. This is in my blood. Helping others is what I was born to do.”

“You can think this is just housekeeping, but this job is more important,” Aferdita explains. “I care about the patients and families, the quality of work I do and how these things all come together. So many patients are here for such a short time, I want to make everybody happy.”


Thrift Stores Offer Large-donation Transport

Downsizing, redecorating or closing an estate? When you have a lot to donate to Agrace thrift stores, we can help. Our free Donation Transportation Service can come to your home in Dane County.

We will pick up furniture and pack up donations that are part of a large estate or downsizing project and transport them to our stores. Our staff wear masks for safety and offer contactless pickup. To schedule, click  below or call (608) 640-0139.

Schedule a Pickup

Upcoming Events

Joining or sponsoring the events below is a meaningful way to show your passion for Agrace’s mission. Proceeds help us provide high-quality care to local patients and clients through programs such as Care for All (charitable care), community grief support groups and specialized staff training.


Create A Personal Legacy at Agrace

Planned gifts help sustain Agrace’s programs like grief support, which is offered not only at the Agrace Grief Support Center, but also at many local schools and community locations, too! With your planned gift to Agrace through a will or estate plan, you help ensure our patients and clients will continue to receive care and support well into the future.

To learn more about supporting Agrace with a planned gift, please contact Courtney Polster, regional development manager, at (608) 327-7139.