Veteran foster care program gives servicemen a second chance at companionship, independence

The program allows citizens to take care of veterans and give them a place to stay.
Medical Foster Homes are private homes in which a trained caregiver provides services to a few individuals.
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 8:04 PM EST
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - There is a need for those with the heart and the will to serve a critical role in the lives of our local military veterans.

After serving our country, a new chapter begins for the men and women of our armed forces when they return home and continue life beyond the service.

As the years progress and our bodies age, a time comes when we commonly look to others for help. Initially, many may feel reluctant, but there’s a local program where veterans find not only help, but also a companion, while still having their independence.

Last December, President Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

Part of this bill includes payment for VA Medical Foster Home care for veterans who are eligible for VA-paid long-term care.

The Salisbury VA Health Care System, which is just north of Charlotte, already provides that care in the community for eligible veterans. But right now, the VA anticipates increased demand given the increased funding in this year’s congressional appropriations.

Medical Foster Homes offer veterans non-institutional, long-term, supportive care. This happens when they’re unable to live independently but prefer to reside in a family setting.

For the program, the Salisbury VA is looking for people who are compassionate, willing and able to provide veterans practical support, in the form of care and treatment, daily.

It’s not a short-term commitment. Candidates must also have stable environments to support the veterans in their care.

They’re looking for people like Mary Slaughter, who serves as a Medical Foster Care Giver with the VA.

“With the VA, the way they do their placement, you know, they really do the screening for placement and they make sure that not only that I’m a good fit for the veteran but the veteran is a good fit for me,” Slaughter said. “And for you know my household and what goes on, you know, in to the point where it’s no longer, ‘Oh, this is Mary’s house, this is our home.’”

While people like Slaughter serves as caregivers, Anna Whisenant is the coordinator of Medical Foster Home.

She explained to us the requirements, but also the rewards, of helping veterans by welcoming them into their homes.

“The medical foster home program here at the VA is an opportunity to seek an alternative environment for your nursing home care,” Whisenant said. “So our caregivers provide care in their own residential homes. They manage the veterans personal care, their meals, snacks, medication management, appointments, laundry, everything that you would get in a traditional nursing home setting. But in the comforts of a home environment.”

Among other things, Slaughter said those veterans having to rely on others can be difficult for them. “Sometimes it’s very hard for them,” she said. “But then you see the change. Once they see that, ‘hey, it’s not so bad.’ You see the change the change, and then when they see that they still have say so in their care. And I think that’s a big thing. In this program, you still have say-so in your care. I have a great team that comes that works with my guys. Anything they need, they get it.”

Once that change is taken hold of and accepted as a good thing, as something that is beneficial, the veterans participating in the foster care are able to let go of some of the fear that initially crept in when independence started to slip away.

“It really increases their quality of life,” Whisenant said. “For me, that’s really what it’s all about is, is giving the veteran back some of those choices, that they may be fear losing as they get older and have to go into a more institutional setting. So, it provides them the opportunity to receive the care they need, while still having a say, in those things. So, they get choices of you know, input into the menu for the week, or they get to voice their preference of the time of day, they would like to take a shower, if they want their coffee before anybody ever talks to them, or whatever it may be.”

Slaughter also noted that the benefits of caring for our veterans don’t stop with the veterans themselves.

“There’s nothing but pros in this program for the caregiver and the veterans they to wake up every morning and know that you know you have a purpose with helping someone else,” she said. That’s life changing.”

If this program sparks an interest, you might be thinking to yourself what it would take to serve this role and do it well.

It is a big commitment, and it does require 24/7 care, however, family members and friends can also be an important part of serving the veterans.

Despite the commitment, Slaughter shared her personal experience, saying that her decision to care for those who fought for us hasn’t taken away her personal life, or her ability to do things.

“I have a personal life, I ride motorcycles,” she said. “That’s why you have your relief workers. My relief workers is my mom, my brother, my son, my daughter, we’re all a family. So, when I need that time, they step in…I let the guys know, ‘hey, I’m gonna be away for a couple of days.’ And they know who’s going to be there with them.”

If you’re interested in becoming a Medical Foster Home Program caregiver, call 704-638-9000. The extension is 16641.

Program caregivers are paid for their time and service.

Also, program officials ensure accountability through regular contact. They look to confirm consistent, quality care in an environment that is safe for each veteran as they enter this new stage of life.

Related: Salisbury VA Health Care System seeks applicants for medical foster home caregiving