Many of the country’s millions of aging vets require care and help with medical issues. The VA medical center in Coatesville, Pennsylvania wants to expand a program that places ailing vets in private homes, rather than nursing homes.
So far, five vets have found a new place to live through the program.
Three of them live in the home of Janet Boger of Delaware County, who first heard about the program through friends. She comes from a military family, her brothers served in the Vietnam era, her mom and dad during World War II, so the “Medical Foster Care” program appealed to her. Her family applied, and after a long application and screening process, qualified. The first two veterans moved in in 2011, the third followed in 2012. Her house has three bedrooms on the first floor, where the men also have access to bathrooms. Boger, her husband, and son now live in the two bedrooms on the second floor.
The men are between the ages of 67 and 72, all have diabetes, and require daily medical care. Janet Boger says integrating the men into her family life has gone well. “It’s a lot like growing up,” said Boger. “I have three older brothers, and it’s like going back in time, and living in the house with my three older brothers.”
Her husband is unemployed and is managing the vets’ care. He monitors their blood sugar and blood pressure daily, and that data is fed into a computer linked to the VA. If medical officials there notice a negative development, they will call to set up an appointment. VA program coordinator Ferlin Charles says when vets live in these family settings, their health tends to improve.
“We find that they become more outgoing, more sociable, their health improves because they have somebody overlooking their medical needs,” said Charles. “As far as the caregivers are concerned, they love having the opportunity to give back and to develop these relationships with the veterans.”
Boger says the vets have their own lives, but all eat together. She says the job is tough and rewarding. “It takes patience, it takes consistency, understanding, but most of all, it takes commitment.”
Coatesville VA officials say they are looking to recruit more families.
Families are paid for housing the vets, but that care is much cheaper than nursing home care.
VA officials say they help veterans apply for benefits to pay for their care, for example through a benefit called “Aid and Attendance”.
The Coatesville VA is hosting an open house for families interested in becoming foster care providers on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013.