VA medical foster homes—private homes in which a trained caregiver provides services to up to three individuals—are an alternative to nursing homes. They are a sensible way to provide 24/7 long-term care for Veterans, says VA researcher Dr. Cari Levy.
She has published studies on the model. The physician heads palliative care at the Denver VA Medical Center and is the associate director of the Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Research.
For example, a study her group published earlier this year found medical foster homes to be less costly than traditional nursing home care. The difference was about $71 per day per Veteran. Even when the monthly fees paid by Veterans were factored in, the foster home model was no more expensive.
The study also showed a trend toward better survival among Vets living in such homes, relative to Vets with similar health and demographic profiles living in nursing homes.
Her team concluded that “efforts to expand the medical foster home program appear warranted given that the program adds to the array of long-term-care options for persons in need of nursing home care while achieving cost-savings and a mortality advantage when compared to traditional community nursing home care.”
“There was a very consistent theme that [the Veterans] were part of the family.”
Her qualitative studies, which have included interviews at several medical foster homes with residents and caregivers, paint a picture of warm, family-style care.
“There was a very consistent theme that [the Veterans] were part of the family,” says Levy. “They were at dinner. They were at breakfast. They kids were in the household and the dog was there. All the events that happened with the family were involving the Veterans. There were all the lovely conversations. The highs and lows that happened with families were happening for these Veterans because they were in the home.”
Photo at top:Registered nurse Anita Wilkens (standing) has turned her private residence into a VA medical foster home, in which she provides 24/7 skilled care for Veteran James Burgess and two other Veterans. (Photo by Robert Turtil)