Health Team

New foster care program aims to help veterans

Posted September 1, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2011 7:03 p.m. EDT

— Veterans of military service often face difficult lives at home. Many of them need long-term living assistance or medical care and end up in institutional care. A new foster care program allows veterans to live into a caregiver's home.

Earl Langston-Chapman served 12 years in the Army as a combat communication specialist. The 55-year-old wasn't injured in combat. A stroke landed him in long term institutional care.

“I was living in a rest home. I didn’t enjoy that. It was pretty stressful to me,” he said.

Langston-Chapman was a good candidate for a new program with the Durham VA Medical Center called Medical Foster Home.

Bonnie Garnette, coordinator of the program, recruits potential foster home caregivers, such as Christine Washington of Youngsville. She has worked as a caregiver in other people’s homes, but she liked the idea of helping someone in need in her own home.

“Being a caregiver is not for everybody. You first have to have a caring heart. That's what it's really all about,” Washington said.

Veterans pay the costs of their own care. Depending on the veteran's level of need, caregivers earn $1,400 to $3,000 a month. Nothing is done without the veteran's approval.

“They choose the home, and they choose the family they wish to be placed with,” Garnette said.

Langston-Chapman was a natural fit in the home with Washington and her sister.

“I think he could vouch for saying that he feels a part of the family,” Washington said.

Langston-Chapman has his own room, his own specially equipped bathroom and a new wheelchair lift on the front porch that helps him get inside and outside on his own.

“I'll be able to take the trash out,” he said, laughing.

Those interested in working in the program should have caregiver experience, either as a paid caregiver or being the caregiver of a loved one. However, no specific skills are required.

The VA Medical Center provides ongoing training in the home, which could involve insulin education, medication management or wound care.