VA program creates foster home for veterans

Veterans can avoid going into a nursing home through the Medical Foster Home Program.
Veterans can avoid going into a nursing home through the Medical Foster Home Program.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – People might be familiar with opening up their homes to foster children or dogs.  But a Department of Veterans Affairs program allows people to care for veterans in their homes.

The VA’s Medical Foster Home Program is an adult foster home for veterans. The program, which is managed locally by Charlie Norwood VA Medial Center, dates back several years ago. New coordinators are working to revamp the program and get the word out to those who may have never heard of it.

Wendy Mathis is a caregiver with the program working to help the VA give a veteran who wants to remain active a home.

“It can be quite rewarding for the veteran and the caregiver,” said Mathis, who lives in Columbia County.

Instead of cutting slice of pie for herself, now she might cut two. Mathis started sharing her home with a veteran 14 months ago.

She told NewsChannel 6, “Other than taking my veteran to appointments we do different things. Sometimes we go to the movies. My veteran likes movies and so do I.”

Mathis became a caregiver through the VA’s Medical Foster Home Program because she wanted to give back to her community. After passing a rigorous inspection, which included a safety check of her home, Mathis received a vet.

“I always felt like our veterans should get the very best when they come back from their duty,” she said.

Veterans needing medical care who don’t want to stay in a nursing home benefit from going in a foster home.

Hallie Cheek is a Medical Foster Home Coordinator in Athens where the program is just starting.  She said the program initiated in Little Rock, AR in 1999 and started in Augusta eight years ago.

She said it benefits, “Veterans that are unable to live alone that maybe need someone to give them their medications. There is a lot of personal care assistance, like bathing and dressing.”

The vet pays the caregiver who would in turn offer around the clock assistance. The VA offers help too, making monthly visits and providing other needs.

“A nurse will make a visit once a month, a social worker, a physical therapist, a dietitian. They’re getting a whole team,” Cheek explained.

Outside of appointments and medical needs, a relationship forms.

“You do become friends because as you’re getting to know them, they are also getting to know you,” Mathis stated. “My veteran and I laugh a lot because I lot to kid around a lot. We find a lot of things to enjoy talking about.”

Caregivers can own or rent their homes and must be financially stable and physically capable of doing the job.  The caregiver must also be at least 21-years-old and have some formal or informal experience doing the job.

As for veterans who would be a good fit, anyone that has a disabling condition, advanced chronic disease and is unable to live independently can benefit from the program.

Cheek can be reached at 706-733-0188 ext. 5540 or 706-945-9447.  Contact her through email at hallie.cheek@va.gov.

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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