Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System
Where Heroes Meet Angels
June 20, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Tara Ingram, a Medical Foster Home caregiver, is waiting for a tenant. She has already prepared for the extra body, but her home remains empty.
"I just love to care (for) and help people," she states with a smile.
She is one of several approved caregivers for the Medical Foster Home Program at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center. The program is a new option for Veterans who qualify to stay in a nursing home or assisted living community, but would prefer a more independent and family centered lifestyle.
The new program gives Veterans the opportunity to live with a caregiver who commits to providing for them and ensuring they receive all their healthcare needs. Veterans who may not feel comfortable with the prospect of living in a nursing home but require more care than that offered at assisted living facilities may find this a viable option.
Dr. Sandra Bragg, the Medical Foster Home coordinator, is looking to increase awareness of this alternative.
"The Veteran becomes a part of the family," Bragg, said. "Sometimes in assisted living (communities) and nursing homes, people pretty much get lost or don't necessarily get the individual attention that they would get in a medical foster home setting."
Caregivers like Tara would not let that happen.
"I just love people. I'm a people person," Ingram said.
It may also be a more financially feasible option for many Veterans. Foster homes can be more affordable than nursing homes and assisted living communities because the price is privately negotiated and agreed upon with the caregiver, and it's based on the Veteran's ability to pay and his/her physical needs.
Bragg believes this benefits Veterans and the VA.
"It's a win-win situation...the VA would otherwise pay for a Veteran to go into a nursing home or another facility. The Veteran pays his own way with a MFH. The VA is not financially responsible."
The program has a partnership with Home Based Primary Care, which provides nurses, dieticians, and any other necessary providers for the Veteran. With the exception of specialty clinicians, all services are conveniently provided at the caregiver's home.
The caregiver is considered a part of the healthcare team, ensuring that the Veteran stays in compliance with the healthcare plan and assisting with daily living needs. According to Tara, most caregivers have prior experience.
"You're actually being with that individual 24/7…(the caregiver) would have to have some type of experience of caring for someone in the privacy of their own home."
A person must undergo a scrutinizing application process – including a federal background check – to qualify as a caregiver, and they must participate in medical and safety training. They are also supervised and inspected randomly each month to ensure that they are properly caring for the Veteran while successfully integrating them into the home.
Coordinators try to match the Veteran and caregiver based on temperament, lifestyle and interests, but the final selection of caregiver rests in the hands of the Veteran and their loved ones.
"They have a right to decide," Bragg stated. "We want people to feel comfortable. It's a long term commitment."
They can visit the homes of the caregivers several times before making a decision. In the majority of cases, once the Veteran is placed in a home, they mesh well with the caregiver and their family.
Bragg noted, "Once a veteran is placed, usually it's a good place."
She is focused on spreading the word for the program, and is currently speaking with several Veterans to see if they are interested.
Meanwhile, Tara is patiently waiting for a new tenant.
"Just being able to help someone, you know, I just think that's a calling from God. It's a gift."
For more information on the Medical Foster Home Program or to learn how to become a caregiver, please contact Dr. Bragg at (910) 488-2120, extension 7325.
Media members with questions about this release should contact Ed Drohan, Public Affairs Officer at email@example.com, by calling (910) 488-2120, ext. 5991 or cell phone (910) 224-2214. Releases are also available online at http://www.fayettevillenc.va.gov/pressreleases/summary.asp.