LOS ANGELES - Life for most veterans after service is challenging, and for many senior veterans and their families, the task of moving into a nursing home or institution can be unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home program has become a solution for senior and disabled veterans who cannot live independently and do not want to live in the institutional setting of a nursing home.
The program started in 2008 and now operates in 44 states, with approximately 700 foster care providers looking after about 1,000 U.S. veterans with chronic conditions.
"It's a home where there's a lot of love," said Kathryn Schaefer West, Medical Foster Home Coordinator. "A foundation piece of foster care in addition to individualized care is looking for families that are very warm and loving."
Each family who offers their home is allowed to take in up to three veterans, provided they meet foster guidelines.
The caregivers are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are available to help the veteran carry out basic activities such as bathing and getting dressed.
All foster home providers must pass background checks and complete 80 hours of training before they can accept veterans. They must also take 20 hours of additional training each year, and may not work outside the home. The VA also makes regular house calls to check on the veterans.
The cost for veterans to live in a medical foster home is about $1,500 to $3,000 each month based on income and the level of care required.
The VA says that its foster home program is only available in areas where local VA hospitals have started a program and foster-home caregivers have been approved.