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Hospice finds home in Waupaca

Community supports new space

By Angie Landsverk

ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca’s new hospice suite will provide comfort to hospice patients and their families as they spend their final days together.

“I am just immensely blessed that we were able to create this,” Betty Jo Balzar said on Dec. 15, when the hospital unveiled the new space during a donor recognition event.

Balzar is the director of clinical and informatics for the ThedaCare system and is the former director of nursing at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.

In early 2016, Balzar and Craig Kantos, the hospital’s CEO, approached the ThedaCare Family of Foundations with the idea of creating special space for hospice.

They saw the hospital as being licensed to provide all types of hospice care but not having a particular space in the hospital for it.

Inpatient rooms were being used.

It was a clinical setting with no room for families to gather, said Erin Tyink, the ThedaCare Family of Foundations regional development officer.

By August, the plan was ready to be shared with the public.

In a short amount of time, community members raised close to $250,000 to fund the project, she said.

Tyink described it as a Waupaca-driven project.

Individuals connected to the hospital in one way or another donated toward the hospice suite project, she said.

“It spoke to the value of the project, how meaningful it was,” Tyink said. “It was incredible to see how it came together.”

An initial budget of $200,000 was adjusted to $220,000.

The space was created by taking two patient rooms and knocking down the wall in the middle.

She said the room provides space for families to gather.

There is a kitchenette and space for family members to sleep on a cot.

The position of the double bed was reoriented so the foot of the bed looks over the the Crystal River, Tyink said.

Computers and cords are hidden so the room does not have a clinical feeling.

The room also has a divider for times when private conversations are necessary.

“Family members can focus on being a family,” she said.

Many times, home is the first choice for a hospice patient, Tyink said.

In other instances, families request assistance.

ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca is licensed to provide residential, respite and acute hospice care.

Jessica Eubanks, supervisor of ThedaCare at Home, said the hospice suite is a well thought out space.

She was among those who gave tours during last week’s donor recognition event.

The hospital sought feedback from families and looked at the “best of the best” facilities, Eubanks said.

“This is their home till the day they pass,” she said.

Families told them space was needed for flowers and cards.

They noted reading lamps were important, as well as spots to plug in USB cords.

Tyink said those are “little pieces that are naturally part of a home but not part of a hospital.”

Over the last year, families shared their stories of sadness and joy, she said.

They had a passion to see a quiet space created in the hospital for hospice patients and their families, Tyink said.

She is grateful to the donors who decided to leave “your fingerprints on your hospital.”

Tyink acknowledged Dr. Earl Anderson for his advocacy, Kantos for his openness to creative thinking, Gayle Keller as the manager of the hospital’s inpatient unit, Vic and Chris Anthony for being beacons of the project from the start and Balzar for her determination to see what “hospice should and could be.”

Balzar said the twos things she is most proud of accomplishing during her tenure in Waupaca are the chapel and the hospice suite.

“You are the roots of this community,” she said to the donors.

Those interested in making a gift to support the work of the foundations may give donations on ThedaCare’s secure website at www.thedacare.org/donate or make checks payable to ThedaCare Family of Foundations and mail them to ThedaCare Family of Foundations, 1818 N. Meade St., Appleton, WI 54911.

Community members interested in seeing the new hospice space may contact Keller at 715-258-1117 to arrange a tour.

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