ThedaCare gives patients meaningful experiences
By Angie Landsverk
From the time Barbra Raether was about 5 years old, she loved horses.
Her reply at that young age when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up was always, “I want to be an excellent horseman.”
Growing up in northern Wisconsin, Raether did get to ride horses, and as an adult, she raised horses for a time.
“I’m horse crazy,” she said.
The apartment she lives in is a testament to that.
Framed pictures of horses hang on the walls of her New London home.
“It was like it was born in me,” she said of her love of horses.
However, up until earlier this fall, it had been more than 20 years since Raether had been on a horse.
ThedaCare at Home’s Hopes and Dreams program changed that.
Raether is a ThedaCare hospice patient, and it was during a conversation with her social worker that she said how she would love to go horseback riding again.
A team of people, including social workers, nurses and volunteers, are involved in the care of hospice patients.
The team talks about what a patient may physically be able to do, said Sarah Lederer, ThedaCare at Home bereavement/volunteer coordinator in the Waupaca area.
“In Barbra’s case, it was horseback riding,” Lederer said of Raether’s wish.
Pat Osmuss, Raether’s hospice volunteer, provided the connection to make that wish a reality.
Last April, Osmuss learned about the nonprofit Red River Riders Therapeutic Horseback Riding, of Shawano.
Osmuss, a retired teacher, heard about it at a meeting of a group of educators.
A hospice volunteer since 2007, Osmuss began visiting Raether weekly in July.
When Raether’s team learned about Raether’s wish, Osmuss shared information about the nonprofit, and arrangements were made.
“Before we even got out of the car, she said, ‘This even smells like the right place,’” Osmuss said of Raether’s reaction when they arrived there.
Osmuss said there were two volunteers on each side of the horse.
“It was an indoor arena. They would tell her (Raether) to touch the horse’s ear, to stretch while interacting with the horse,” she said.
Raether’s time on the horse included balancing and strengthening exercises.
“I loved every minute of it. When it was time, I pet the horse on the neck, and I talked to him,” she said.
Making it happen
For about 15 years, ThedaCare has offered this service to its patients who are in the last chapter of their lives, said Erin Tyink, the ThedaCare Family of Foundations regional development officer.
The program became more formalized within the last five years with a name and structure, she said.
She said the team of people who care for a hospice patient, whether it is in a home, hospital or nursing home, get to know that patient and find out what the patient would like to do again.
“They’re very, very personal, not often something they would ask for but something they happen to mention,” Tyink said of these hopes and dreams.
“All Hopes and Dreams are funded through gifts made to the ThedaCare Hospice Foundation,” she said.
Within that foundation are foundations to serve the Waupaca and New London areas, as well as the Fox Cities and the Shawano area, Tyink said.
“People are motivated in different ways to give,” she said.
In Waupaca, ThedaCare has a Hospice Foundation event called Light up the Night.
Tyink said it takes place in August and funds a number of hospice programs, including Hopes and Dreams.
Lederer said families also donate to the program after a family member was the recipient of it.
She said hopes and dreams may be as simple as going to a movie to something more large scale as having a sitting for a family portrait or returning to a place where they have a connection.
The foundation supports the cost.
“Red Riders didn’t charge us anything. They gave their time,” Lederer said of Raether’s wish. “What we paid for was the transportation and the dinner.”
Osmuss joined Raether on the trip.
“They spent the whole day together,” Lederer said.
She said ThedaCare’s Hopes and Dreams program is about bringing joy to the lives of its hospice patients.
“It’s something meaningful to them,” Lederer said. “Patients are very much involved with the planning and what they want to do. We want to make it a great experience. We all work together as a team.”
She said the focus is on quality of life.
“Hospice really looks at all those facets of life. This is that living each day to its fullest piece,” Lederer said.
Tyink said those who want to donate to the foundation may send checks to ThedaCare Hospice Foundation, 1818 N. Meade St, Appleton, WI 54911.
Checks should be written out to ThedaCare Hospice Foundation, and if the donor wants the funding to go to the Hopes and Dream program in the Waupaca area, that should be written in the memo line, she said.
People may also visit www.thedacare.org/Getting-Involved/Foundations/ThedaCare-Hospice-Foundation-Fund to make a donation online.
For more information, contact Tyink at 920-286-1330.