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Going Home to Say Goodbye: A 2020 Story to Remember

Dear Friends of Agrace,

Despite all that has challenged us in 2020, Agrace continues to come alongside people in their most difficult times, care for them and fulfill their wishes any way we can.

Although some of our plans for 2020 had to be delayed, we’re doing well. Our hospice patient census remains steady, though lower than planned, due to the pandemic. However, as people are urged to stay at home, we’ve had very strong demand for our senior care service, Age at Home. We’ve kept expenses down and should be able to end the year on solid footing.

The true highlight of 2020 is the impact we have on people’s lives. Here’s an example of why your support matters so much:

houseBack in June, we collaborated with American Family Children’s Hospital to care for a newborn baby who was on a ventilator. Her parents’ goal was to take her home before she died (which was inevitable). She had a two-year-old brother and a large family who wanted to meet her—and say goodbye. Hospital visitors were severely limited, so getting home was a big focus.

Agrace’s staff arranged for medical equipment to be delivered and an ambulance to transport the baby home. Our nurse and social worker visited the family’s southwestern Wisconsin home to enroll her in hospice care. Shortly after, a respiratory therapist and nurse practitioner from AFCH took the baby off her ventilator and estimated that she would live only about 24 hours more. She showed no distress and was very peaceful.

Amazingly, the baby rallied! A few days later, an Agrace staff member saw her in the community with her mom and dad. She continued to be OK without supplemental oxygen. Agrace pulled back to daily calls, and visited two or three times a week. We even granted a wish through our Foundation for family pictures.

In all, the family got three weeks at home with their baby, much longer than they thought was possible. The day she died was very emotional for everyone, as you might imagine, but those weeks of her being home were very meaningful for her family, and for the Agrace team who supported them.

When things in our world are so troubling, I remember that the entire Agrace team and I am part of something almost magical. I thank my lucky stars every day for this opportunity.

Thank you for supporting Agrace with your time and treasure.

Lynne Sexten
President & CEO


A New Name for our Palliative Care Services

Agrace Supportive Care

When people are seriously ill and need ideas to help them feel and cope better, they don’t want to be intimidated by more medical jargon. To help them embrace our palliative care service, we have changed its name from PalliaHealth to Agrace Supportive Care.

Although palliative care programs have become more common nationwide, the term “palliative care” and the name “PalliaHealth,” are still unfamiliar to many people. Think about how cardiology services are often provided at “Heart Health” centers. It’s best to use words patients know.

We hope our new name will help people better understand what we can offer them: specialized support for living well during a serious illness. You can learn more at Agrace.org/SupportiveCare.


Comfort, Made to Order

Anne Swanson

Anne Swanson

Kurt,* a native of Germany, was a hospice inpatient at Agrace last summer when his family noticed his mood was low. They asked Sarah, his social worker, for ideas to brighten his days. Sarah arranged for Christine, a patient menu coordinator, to ask Kurt about traditional German dishes or other favorite foods he would like. From that conversation, Chef Anne made Bratkartoffeln (German cottage potatoes) and other side dishes for Kurt to try.

“One of our Kitchen Team’s mission principles is that our patients be able to enjoy the foods they feel comforted by,” says Anne Swanson, executive chef. “It can be very powerful to have what you want when so much has been taken away, so we say ‘Yes! What would you like?’. It is often surprising to hear what they are thinking about: a chocolate malt, warm pie or even Froot Loops! How simple this gift is—it is why we are here. It feeds us!”

*Name changed for privacy.


6 Ways to Help People with Dementia Thrive

How would you want to be treated if memory loss left you unable to recall the names of your neighbors, even though you could still recite your high school batting average and the birthdays of all four Beatles?

As dementia erodes people’s short-term memory, they often retain memories of what makes them uniquely “themselves”—their career, habits, hobbies, likes/dislikes and favorite stories. We can help them live with greater dignity by learning about the experiences that shaped them and using those details to bring them comfort. That’s “person-centered” care.

gardenerIf you care for someone with memory loss, here are six tips you can try to calm them, redirect energy and build trust:

  1. Keep to their regular daily routine.
  2. Learn and talk about what is familiar to them. For example, if they had a garden, talk about the flowers or veggies they grew. If they once had a farm, ask about their animals and crops.
  3. Meet them where they are; if they believe they are 25 years old, talk to them about their life at that age.
  4. Help them find their “happy place,” with a favorite song, place or scent.
  5. Help them do activities that are meaningful to them, such as tinkering, doing “chores,” walking outside or rising early.
  6. Respect their modesty during bathing and personal care.

If this topic interests you, our caregiver web page offers more advice about caring for a person with dementia. 


Prevent the Flu, Too!

Agrace cares for the whole community. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked hard to keep our patients, their families and our communities healthy. As we enter flu season, we encourage you to protect yourself and others from getting sick this winter by getting a flu shot.

By preventing influenza, you also reduce the burden on local hospitals and health care workers. Stopping the spread of both COVID-19 and the flu keeps your whole community safer!


Agrace Celebrates Memory Care Milestones

Maybelle & Izzy

Maybelle & Izzy

Agrace’s Hospice Memory Care Suites marks its first anniversary this December, but many other milestones happened here throughout 2020. Our favorite might be the day Maybelle, the twin sister of our patient Izzy, stopped by to surprise her and celebrate their 96th birthday!

The Agrace Hospice Memory Care Suites are a homelike, 12-room secure unit that is specially designed to be comforting and safe for hospice patients who have dementia or other memory care needs. The Suites are located on our beautiful Madison-area campus in Fitchburg. Call (800) 930-2770 to ask about the Agrace Hospice Memory Care Suites or hospice eligibility.


Thrift Stores Need Volunteer Cashiers

Most Other Roles Still on Hold

As beautiful autumn colors give way to crisp, white snowflakes, you may be busy adapting your holiday plans to ones that are safer, considering the pandemic. Likewise, Agrace’s Volunteer Services Team is busy planning for the safe return of our volunteers.

Most volunteer roles have been on hold since March, but we’ve recently been able to bring back a small number of volunteers in select roles. We’ve prioritized safety, with measures such as masks, distancing and extra training.

Cashiers needed: One place we need volunteers now is Agrace’s thrift stores. Volunteers are helping our stores stay open, generating funds to support programs for Agrace patients and families. If you want to do something meaningful and fun during the pandemic, please consider volunteering as a cashier at any of our Madison or Janesville locations. For details, call (608) 327-7163 or email volunteer@agrace.org.


Show Us Your Favorite Finds

You can share your favorite Agrace Thrift Store finds on our Facebook and Instagram channels using #AgraceFavoriteFinds. You never know what unique items will be in store! And (hint, hint) if you volunteer at the thrift stores, you can be one of the first to scope out the newest thrifty treasures.

One last bit of thrift store news: We now offer gift cards in any amount $10 or more. You can give the gift of thrift and feel great knowing you’re helping to recycle and upcycle quality goods.


Ease Holiday Grief by Honoring Loved Ones Lost

Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year are times often celebrated with family feasts around the dining room table and beloved traditions: spinning a dreidel, lighting a candle, sharing laughter over a mug of hot cocoa and watching fireworks burst in the sky. These are times of unity and gratitude.

But when you are grieving the death of a loved one, your emotions can overshadow the festivities. Who will lead the caroling, cook the latkes or count down the minutes to 2021? The pandemic’s travel limitations and greater isolation this year are new barriers to how we typically cope with our grief during the holidays.

Although our celebrations may look different this year, here are seven ways you can honor loved ones during the holiday season:

  1. Light a candle in their honor and celebrate the light they brought to your life.
  2. Attend virtual religious services.
  3. Listen to their favorite music or recite their favorite poem.
  4. Write them a letter.
  5. Make their favorite holiday treat or meal.
  6. Send their favorite holiday recipe to family and friends.
  7. Host an online fundraiser for an organization they passionately supported.

Thank You for Supporting Agrace through 2020

This year has been anything but predictable, and in these strange times the impact of your support has become very clear. Your gifts to Agrace have helped us:

  • keep our patients and their families safer during the pandemic;
  • ensure all in our community can access quality end-of-life care, even if they cannot pay; and
  • care for those in our community grieving the loss of a loved one, through both virtual and in-person grief support.
  • You are an important part of what we do. We appreciate you during this unique holiday season and always.

Thank you for your support!

Virtual Events Find Real Success, Thanks to You!

If you joined an Agrace special event this year, you raised crucial funds for programs such as Care for All, community grief support and the Wish Program. Shortly after our Sips & Sounds event on Leap Day, COVID-19 hit, and uncertainties grew by the day. We quickly shifted some of our events to virtual formats.   

race for agrace Race for Agrace participants received a race kit and completed their own course on their own time and pace. We appreciate their loyalty to this event, which raised more than $30,000!
Butterfly Gala also pivoted to virtual as “A Stay-at-Home Soiree.” There was an online auction, video program and a Butterfly Box for attendees, filled with prosecco, sweets and treats. More than $81,000 was raised.

Thank you to everyone near and far who took part in these virtual events and our successful (and physically distanced) 2020 golf outings. We look forward to the days when we can safely resume all our events in person!

Sips & Sounds Moves to Spring with New Venue

Mark your calendars now for May 14, for Agrace’s popular wine and beer tasting event, Sips & Sounds 2021. We’re moving it to spring and to Glen Erin Golf Celtic House in Janesville. A relaxing evening of live music and delicious food and spirits awaits you!


Jeanne, an Agrace Hospice Care patient is well-known for her lively energy. But as the isolation brought on by COVID-19 wore on, she was feeling down and missing the life she once knew.

In August, her care team coordinated with Agrace’s Wish Program to give Jeanne a ride back to her roots. Read her poignant story and see how you can help light up the lives of others this giving season. When you donate to Agrace, you help us give our patients more meaningful moments just like Jeanne’s.

Thank you!

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