Yesterday, we spoke of assisted living homes. Today, I want to tell you about a (relatively) new solution to caring for elders that has been a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs for a dozen years: medical foster homes wherein veterans receive round-the-clock care in private homes.
Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian wrote about this program in The New York Times about three weeks ago:
”Medical foster homes provide an alternative to nursing homes for veterans who are unable to live safely and independently at home or lack a strong family caregiver. Conceived in 2000 by V.A. social workers in Little Rock, Ark., the program currently serves 535 veterans; it has cared for 1,468 since it began…
“Now operating through 73 V.A. sites in 36 states, the medical foster homes program is scheduled to expand to 10 more states within two years. Eventually, the V.A. hopes to introduce the program to all 153 of the agency’s medical centers…”
Like all types of home care, medical foster homes are less expensive than commercial and non-profit assisted living and nursing homes – in this case, about half the average cost – and the veterans themselves pay between $1800 and $3000 per month, depending on their needs, from their own Veterans Administration, or Social Security benefits, other forms of insurance or a combination of those.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, “The specific cost is agreed upon ahead of time by [the veteran] and Medical Foster Home caregiver.”
The Times story explains that the VA takes special pains to choose caregivers for the medical foster care program – like Paulia and Bienne Bastia with whom two aged veterans are currently living.
”The Bastias, who met in Florida after emigrating from Haiti, went through months of interviews and background checks to qualify as caregivers. A social worker, a nurse, a dietitian and a fire-safety expert inspected their two-story home on a quiet suburban street, and it will be reinspected annually.
“Given the vulnerability of the older veteran population, the V.A. approval process is rigorous. Only one in 10 to 15 applicants are selected. People with no formal training can apply, however, and many with family caregiving experience do.
“Once a veteran is placed in a home, the V.A. provides training for tasks like cleaning wounds, managing incontinence and safely transporting the new residents.”
And the caregivers are provided with respite time off.
Of course, we would all rather stay in our homes until we die but the truth is, that will not be possible for all of us. As the elder population continues to grow, we are going to need as many inventive solutions for care as we can create.
Until I read The Times story, I’d not heard of medical foster homes. They seem to be one good solution and the Department of Veterans Affairs has already spent 12 years working out the kinks.
There must be a way their knowledge could help translate this solution to the general, non-veteran population of old people.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Traumatic Experience