Agrace LPN Karen Minott (l), her parents Lynda and Verne Fuchs, and daughter, Agrace CNA Lauren Minott have supported Agrace patients and families over a span of 27 years.
“Be sure you say it’s the best thing I ever did in my life,” Verne Fuchs urges. He gets a bit emotional recounting his 27 years of hospice volunteering for Agrace. Over nearly three decades, three generations of Verne’s family have held the hands and met the needs of dying people in and around Rock County. They’re a special part of Agrace’s 40-year legacy.
In the early 1990s, two employees of Janesville Team Care (which later merged into Agrace) came to talk to staff at Verne’s employer, General Motors. They called hospice volunteering a way to find purpose in retirement. Verne says, “The minute they got done talking, I said, ‘I’ve got to join that.’ And I did, right there.”
Verne’s wife, Lynda, also volunteered with hospice patients until she began to babysit for her grandchildren so her daughter, Karen Minott, could join Agrace as a licensed practical nurse. That was 22 years ago. In 2017, Karen’s daughter Lauren joined Agrace as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
Support without judgement
In Verne’s early days, volunteers had great latitude to discover and do whatever the patient needed. “One patient who had esophageal cancer asked me to take him to his favorite burger place. I said, ‘But you can’t eat or drink,’ and he said, ‘No, the burgers are for YOU.’ I got one, and it was really good,” Verne admits. “Then I asked if he wanted some water to rinse out his mouth. He took the water and swallowed it—didn’t even realize. He was happier than heck! There was another place where he used to like the pop, so we got that, too. He was just so happy.”
Karen was a hospital nurse when she discovered she prefers in-home nursing. “With Agrace, we meet people where they are. There’s not this big push to get better—you have to do this; you have to do that. We just support them,” she explains. “We leave the judgment out, which is hugely important.”
Verne chimes in, “There’s nurses—and then there’s hospice nurses!” His family nods in agreement.
Lauren also found her way to Agrace, after helping with her dad’s care as he was dying. “I always cared more about other people than myself,” she says. “Then one day it dawned on me: That’s exactly what a CNA does. I signed up for classes and surprised
my mom with a note that said, ‘I’m taking after you.’”
Now, as an Agrace CNA, Lauren says, “My favorite thing is holding hands with my patients. The hands are gentle and soft—or they’re hard. Your hands tell the story of your life.”
This family that is called to hospice care agrees: “We gain as much as, if not more than, our patients.”