Medical Foster Home
The Medical Foster Home Program in El Paso was launched January 2012. In operation since 2006, this program, which is spread across 36 states, is new to El Paso and the Fort Bliss community, where it will house veterans.
“Part of the reason we’re trying to get the word out to the community is because we are working on client referrals and establishing medical foster homes,” said Gail Ziegler, public affairs officer with El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. “Currently, we have not placed any veterans. We are new and that’s why we’re asking for help from the community, so the program may provide a home-like environment for applicants.”
So far there are a limited number of homes in the El Paso area.
“We have two homes near completion for placement of veterans; one on the west and east sides of El Paso,” said Ziegler. “That means we have six beds available. Homes are limited to three patients. In some cases that arrangement will accommodate a husband and wife couple.”
Michele Davis, program coordinator, for the Medical Foster Home Program, an element of the El Paso VA system, said she wants the program to expand.
“The program is looking for more homes and caregivers in the community that will provide 24-hour-a-day services, seven days a week,” she said. “[This] includes a family-like environment from caregivers willing to work with the home-based primary care program, which provides the services and adheres to the plan of care prescribed for the veterans.
“We have some veterans with multiple medical issues, such as diabetes, heart and kidney problems,” Davis continued. “It is difficult for them to maintain their health. Veterans that qualify require assistance.”
There are also considerations for special diets and outlets for socialization and recreation for homebound veterans. Caregivers contract directly with the veteran to pay for room, board and ancillary services that may apply.
Language, cultural practices and adaptability are essential elements for matching veterans with potential caregivers with whom they will live.
Davis has already found the program rewarding, even at the training level.
“What I saw in the training was veterans that were really happy in these home environments,” said Davis. “They celebrated their birthdays at church together. It took me back to a time when people settled down to a meal. Some of the veterans I saw had been homeless.
“One of the clients was so happy to be in a home environment, all he ever wanted was teeth – he had no teeth,” continued Davis. “His assigned family supported him along with the home-based primary care team. He was sitting at the dinner table smiling from ear to ear, and he kept pointing at his teeth and saying: ‘I have teeth.’”
Homelessness is still a large problem in the El Paso community.
“We have a huge population of veterans in the community having difficulty maintaining their mental health and other medical health issues,” said Davis.
“Veterans are paying for this,” said Davis. “They pay for room and board. The source of the funding income could come from Social Security, service-connected injuries and or wounds, pensions or other sources the veteran may receive.”
The program is still looking for volunteer caregivers.
“If community members are interested in becoming foster caregivers from their homes, they must be licensed from the city of El Paso,” said Davis. The organization is looking for people wanting and willing to give back to the veterans.
To learn more, call 217-2428, ext. 7743.
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