Utahns who want to help the troops can provide a much-needed service to ailing and aging veterans by becoming part of a network of medical-foster homes that was announced this week.

Many veterans who live alone and independently for years are declining physically and sometimes mentally to a point that it's no longer safe for them to remain on their own, said Josh Brown, a clinical social worker with the Veterans Affairs' Salt Lake City Health Care System and coordinator of the new foster-home program.

Some veterans view potential injury or serious health risks as options they prefer over having to move into a care center or traditional nursing-home situation, Brown said.

"This is where the Medical Foster Home Program steps in to offer a safe, favorable, and less-costly alternative," he said. "The program allows community members an opportunity to serve veterans who have served us in maintaining and ensuring our freedoms."

Foster-home caregivers must be willing to take a veteran into their home and provide 24-hour supervision, as well as needed personal assistance. The commitment is long-term, and those who sign up to provide care should be prepared for the veteran to live with them for the remainder of his or her life, Brown said.

Care providers receive monthly payments of $1,500 to $2,500, based on the level and type of care needed by the veteran. A household that takes in a veteran who is physically capable of handling daily activities but who has a mild form of dementia requiring some supervision would be compensated $1,500. People who take in a vet who is bed-bound, incontinent and needs attention every few hours would would receive $2,500 per month.

Financial support for the program seems to be secure, after the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved increases for veterans' health care. The spending package continues a series of veterans' services budget increases approved by Congress in the past five years.

The measure, one of a handful of appropriations bills that might become law before Congress adjourns for the elections, calls for increasing spending on Veterans Health Administration programs by $3.1 billion over current levels, or by some 9 percent.

Expanding supervised in-home care helps appropriations go much further than expenditures for institutionalized care, Brown said, plus the notion is the much preferred option for those who cannot get along without help.

People who would like to become a medical foster-care provider must be over age 21 and own or rent a home. They must complete a criminal background check. They also must read, write and speak English, know first aid and be certified in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

They will be required to allow monthly visits by a VA treatment team, and they must accept and follow the veteran's prescribed treatment plan.

For more information call 801-582-1565, ext. 2180.

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