VA offers help for caregivers

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The Salisbury VA Medical Center provides many services in the mission to care for Veterans, but another essential part of some Veterans' care is the assistance they receive from family caregivers in the home.

Being a caregiver can sometimes be an incredibly demanding job, but the Salisbury VAMC is providing care and guidance for those who care for Veterans through the Caregiver Support program.

The Caregiver Support program provides a number of services, resources and support for caregivers, that are available both in and out of the home. Some of those services include adult day health care, home-based primary care, skilled home care, homemaker and home health aide programs, respite care and home hospice care.

The program offers certain services and benefits to caregivers, depending on the service era and level of care needed, said Tara Zollicoffer, a caregiver support coordinator.

"We have two components to our program – one is a comprehensive program that is particularly for Veterans who have a post-9/11 discharge, who are seriously injured and require the need of a caregiver," she explained. "The comprehensive program provides a stipend and benefits to our caregivers of post-9/11 Veterans. We provide them a stipend because the Veteran is seriously injured and requires that daily contact from a caregiver. A lot of those caregivers are not able to work outside the home, so we provide that benefit to them as well as health insurance, individual counseling, expanded respite services, etc., to help them."

"The other component of the program is for all other era Veterans where we provide supportive services," added Zollicoffer. "We have caregiver support groups, monthly education calls, online workshops, so we are like a clearing house for any caregiver that needs additional supportive services."

Zollicofffer said applicants for services go through an assessment process to see what they are eligible for.

"First we do an initial screening assessment to see if they are administratively eligible. We determine if they have a post-9/11 discharge, if they are service-connected for an injury that requires the aid of a caregiver, if the caregiver lives in the home and is providing daily care, and assess what care they are providing on a daily basis," she said.

The program also has a clinical team that reviews and discusses every application.

Cathy Lingle, another caregiver support coordinator with the program, said after the initial assessment, the Veteran and their caregiver come in to discuss their particular situation.

"We mainly look at the service connections, what they are service-connected for, and what does that caregiver have to do each and every day so that Veteran can stay at home and have a more active, better life," she said.  "It all comes back to what does the caregiver do to assist that Veteran."

Lingle said if someone doesn't qualify for the comprehensive program, they are automatically considered for the general family caregiver program.

Once a caregiver is accepted for services in the program, an initial home visit is done and repeated every three months.  Lingle said the visits help the program coordinators get a better feel for how they can help the Veteran and their caregiver.

"You really get a different perspective when you go into the Veterans' homes, when you get to see them in their environment," she said. "A lot of times, once you are in their home and they feel comfortable with you, they really open up and talk to us."

Zollicoffer said providing care and support for those who care for Veterans is a huge reward for the Caregiver Support team.

"It makes you feel good when you get a call from a caregiver who is just so appreciative of getting some support they didn't even know was available," Zollicoffer said. "They are so grateful just knowing there is someone they can contact when they are going through a difficult time. It's great when they start to get involved and connect in the program because they see other people who are going through the same things that they are, which helps them a lot."

For more information about the Caregiver Support program, call (704) 638-9000, ext. 4072/4580 or .

For more information about the Salisbury VA Medical Center, visit