Families benefit from hospice care

November 16, 2016 GMT

Hospice care isn’t cheap, but it can be priceless.

When congestive heart failure afflicted longtime Baraboo shoe salesman John Sprecher, his family sought a way to help him die in comfort and peace. They visited the then-new St. Clare Hospice House, and instantly felt comfortable.

“I knew right away he was going to have one-on-one, around-the-clock care,” said his daughter, Susan Sprecher, adding that the facility was a blessing for the entire family. “It accommodates private time that you need.”

Her father transitioned seamlessly from his home of 60 years to a room at the Hospice House. Medical needs had sapped his insurance and Social Security funds, so the family turned to a Resident Fund designed to provide aid.

“It was coming home in a way,” Sprecher said. “He was at peace.”

For more than a decade, the Hospice House has provided families invaluable commodities like comfort and time. Because some families can’t afford the $250 daily rate, boosters hold an annual Spirit of Life gala to replenish the Resident Fund. This year’s event will be Dec. 1 at Ho-Chunk Casino.

The fund covers up to three-week stays. “It’s for people who have exhausted all their funds at end of life,” said Darlene Otto, one of the gala’s organizers.

Included in this year’s event will be a viewing of a recorded interview with Sprecher, as well as a speech by Laura Snyder Henrickson.

“I just thank anyone who can come and help out, because you never know when you’re going to need it,” Henrickson said. “Never in my life did I think we’d need it.”

Snyder story

When brain cancer attacked Henrickson’s mother Barb Snyder a decade ago, the family turned to in-home hospice care. They planned to check her in at the Hospice House, but she died a week before her arrival date.

Hospice care afforded the family “the best gift in the world,” Henrickson said. “They gave us the gift of time, and that’s priceless.”

Like John Sprecher, Barb Snyder was well-known around Baraboo. She worked at a local bank, supported the Ochsner Park Zoo, and was a fixture at First United Methodist Church along with husband Mike. “She just loved Baraboo, and loved everyone in it,” Henrickson said.

Her mother required three weeks of home care before succumbing to cancer. Although it was a trying time for the family, hospice care was a godsend. “We are so thankful for the Hospice House,” Henrickson said. “It gave me so much peace in my heart.”

Hospice House

Now in its 11th year, the facility is owned by SSM Health St. Clare Hospital and is operated by Home Health United. It has four rooms, plus common areas such as a den and a meditation room.

The facility’s boosters hold Spirit of Life each December to put money in the Resident Fund. Too many families fail to plan for end-of-life care, Otto said. “You don’t think about it,” she said.

The event also raises awareness of the facility. “It’s still a secret to some townspeople,” Sprecher said.

Sprecher story

Her father ran Red Goose Shoes downtown, where Bekah Kate’s operates today. He gave out goose eggs with every shoe purchase, and the store’s rocking horse was a local institution, just like the proprietor.

“Everybody knew him,” said Pam Geary Godfrey, another Spirit of Life organizer.

He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and Korea, and went on a Badger Honor Flight in 2013, accompanied by daughter Susan. He died in February 2016 at 89.

“Every day we were reminded of how special it was for him to be here,” Susan Sprecher said of the Hospice House. “Our experience here was nothing short of a miracle.”

Personalized care made her father feel at home, and put his family at ease. “We just felt like they were only there for him,” Sprecher said of the staff.

“They saved his life for the end of his life,” she continued. “To have it this close was next to heaven.”