Family-style living helps veterans who can no longer live independently at home and want to avoid institutional care
What happens when living independently at home is no longer possible and family members aren’t available to provide care? Many people fear moving to an “institution.” Is there an alternative?
About 12 years ago, VA recognized the need of veterans in this situation and created the Medical Foster Home (MFH) program.
World War II veteran Bob Mohan, 90, found an arrangement that suits him just fine. The Grand Junction (Colo.) Sentinel (May 27, 2013) reports that Mohan moved into a private residence, thanks to its owner, Jolena Lowe, and the Department of Veterans Affairs MFH program.
Lowe monitors Mohan’s health and makes sure he eats regularly. She says it’s a chance to repay American veterans’ service to their country. Mohan enjoys a comfortable environment at less than the amount he’d have to pay for care in an institution — and he is able to have his dog with him.
On the geripal.org blog, Paul Tatum, MD, describes the program as “a truly exciting alternative.” Tatum specializes in family practice, geriatric medicine and palliative care in Columbia, Mo. He has 16 years’ experience as an MD after completing his education at the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio.
Tatum says, “Like foster care for children, MFH places frail older patients into homes that provide family-style living with room, board and personal care.
“MFH caregivers open their homes and hearts to take in one, two, or three veterans and provide 24-hour supervision and personal assistance as needed. Every MFH patient receives care from a VA Home Based Primary Care team with in-home medical care, oversight, and training and support for caregivers.”
VA describes Medical Foster Homes as private residences in which a trained caregiver provides services to a few individuals. Some, but not necessarily all, residents are veterans. VA inspects and approves all Medical Foster Homes.
Medical Foster Homes have a trained caregiver on duty 24/7. This person can help with activities of daily living (e.g., bathing and getting dressed). VA ensures that the caregiver is well trained to provide VA planned care. While living in a Medical Foster Home, veterans receive Home Based Primary Care services.
VA does not provide or pay for a Medical Foster Home. To be eligible for an MFH, veterans must be enrolled in Home Based Primary Care, and a home needs to be available. A VA social worker or case manager can help with eligibility guidelines.
Veterans pay for the Medical Foster Home themselves or through other insurance. The charge for a Medical Foster Home is about $1,500–$3,000 each month based on income and level of care needed. The specific cost is agreed upon ahead of time by the MFH caregiver and care recipient.
According to Tatum, “The key to [the program’s] success lies in the caregivers. Unlike many assisted-living settings, each VA MFH is a small personal home of the MFH caregiver who lives there, there are no more than three residents receiving care, and every MFH resident meets nursing-home level of care. Caregivers are paid by the veteran, but the expectation is that this is a long-term commitment.”
For more information about the Medical Foster Home program, visit www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/Guide/LongTermCare/Medical_Foster_Homes.asp#