Veterans offered personal care in foster homes

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:07 a.m.

SALISBURY — Soon, military veterans in and around Rowan County will be invited to stay with local families instead of in nursing homes for their long-term care.

Debra Todd, medical foster home coordinator for the W.G. (Bill) Hefner Salisbury VA Medical Center, said she is looking for interested caregivers and qualified veterans to join a growing program.

“This program is intended to take veterans who are approaching that time when they would be entering a nursing home and give them a choice during that difficult transition time,” Todd said. “It’s offering them a home-like environment, where they can age in peace.”

The national program began in Arkansas in 2000, and since then, it has served more than 1,200 veterans. There are 580 veterans across the country who are living in medical foster homes, where they stay for one or more years.

Right now, 77 facilities in 38 states pair foster caregivers with veterans. That’s expected to grow to 102 facilities in 48 states within the next year, Todd said.

Soon, approved families in Rowan and surrounding counties will open their homes to veterans needing long-term care.

“We’ll cover all community-based outpatient clinics in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Hickory, as well as veterans who would access the VA here in Salisbury,” Todd said.

But the men and women who served their country won’t be entrusted to just anyone.

“We are essentially looking for people in the community whose commitment is to veterans, and they have compassion,” Todd said. “Those are the people that we’re looking for.”

The caregivers should have some prior experience with caregiving, whether informal with a family member or more formal in a nursing home or as a nursing assistant.

Two local families hope to welcome in veterans within the next 90 days, Todd said. First, they have to wait to be approved.

“The caregivers go through probably one of the most rigorous application processes we have in place,” she said.

Each caregiver must undergo an FBI background check, supply personal and professional references, provide financial statements to show their stability, receive a health examination and undergo a home inspection.

Teams that include a fire and safety inspector, a nurse, a dietician and an occupational therapist make sure that each home is appropriate and safe for the veterans, Todd said.

In order to make sure the veterans have 24/7 care, the foster families also designate one or two relief caregivers, who undergo the same thorough screening process.

Todd said she is required to make monthly unannounced visits to the homes, and a medical team from the hospital will help caregivers set up and maintain a treatment plan. Each home can care for up to three veterans at a time.

Veterans qualify for the program if they meet a nursing home level of care.

“That would be someone who is not able to live independently due to functional, cognitive or psychosocial impairment,” Todd said. They would have a chronic medical problem, such as uncontrolled diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, a spinal cord injury or a brain injury.”

They also must have the ability to pay a cost that typically ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 per month. That fee is negotiated between the veteran and the caregiver, Todd said.

“It is considerably less expensive than a nursing home,” she said. “Veterans could apply for the VA benefit of aid and attendance, and that would supplement the cost.”

For more information, area veterans, their family members and potential caregivers can call Debra Todd at 704-639-2370, ext. 8657.

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