Our veterans have served us for many years. Now people have a chance to serve them back.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 11, 2020. It has since been updated.
Veterans leave behind their families to keep the head and honor of their country held high. But sadly, once their duties are over, they come back to a world where they often find themselves alone and traumatized by their violent pasts. Many are homeless when they return and many more start living in nursing care homes.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, people in the military witness combat and go on missions where they have to confront "horrible and life-threatening experiences." This often leads to them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most common PTSD cases have been observed in those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF), Gulf War (Desert Storm), and the Vietnam War.
But there are some people who recognize the sacrifices of the veterans and open their hearts and minds to help them out. According to Southern Living, many families are opening their homes for American heroes to help them provide more of a loving home than just a nursing care center through VA's Medical Foster Home program. The vets who cannot survive independently are moved to a foster program where they live like a family in half the cost.
Foster families for veterans open their homes, hearts https://t.co/BoT5Zz4XIe— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 11, 2020
Medical foster home program coordinator, Lori Paris recalling the time she met Vietnam War veteran Carroll Botts, revealed to Today back in 2019, that Carroll was always living in his room in a nursing home, that "was dark and he was just laying in bed. He didn’t want to leave his room."
Within just two years after moving to foster home, the then-70-year-old vet was attending concerts and meeting local elementary school children. Lori said, "Mr. Botts has come completely alive. It’s like night and day.” Carroll lives with two other vets in Indiana accompanied by the homeowner and caregiver Barney Musselman, surrounded by nature's beauty.
Talking about the drastic change in Carroll, Lori divulged, “I’ll stop by and Mr. Botts is relaxing on the deck or hanging out in the living room. I’ve never once seen him in his bed.”
Regine Kercy who also runs a medical foster home in Port St. Lucie, Florida, cares for Henryette Marshall, a 95-year-old female veteran of World War II, and Henry W. Sterrett III, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran. Medical foster home program coordinator Emily Flowers-Yahn said that Henry has transformed completely under Regine's care.
"Hank [Henry] looked about 20 years younger after being with Regina for two months," she said and continued, "He was wheelchair-bound and she worked with him every single day to improve his mobility. You can see he is so proud of what he has accomplished." For Regine, both Henryette and Henry is her family. "They are my joy," she said and added, "I love them."
Barney and Regine are among over 700 caregivers in 44 states hosting about 1000 veterans countrywide. Dayna Cooper, who is the Director of Home and Community Care in the Office Geriatrics and Extended Care for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, hopes to expand more under the program that was launched in 2008.
She explained that the demand for foster home care is more in rural areas because most vets wish to stay where they grew up. So, to give the vets the happiness they deserve, program facilitators find them homes in communities they already know and love. The program has one of the highest satisfaction rates in the VA.
Dayna revealed that vets who suffer from dementia or traumatic brain injuries benefit the most by living at home with a family. She said, "We see vets who have been in a home who have been depressed and come out of it and thrive." She added that the nursing home environment can be overstimulating for some vets and so "patients who didn't do well in an institution have their quality of life improved."
The program also helps build a bond as "many of our caregivers and vets become family." She added, "They take them on vacation. We recently spoke to a family that takes their veteran—a quadriplegic—camping twice a year. These are opportunities they never would have had."
If you are interested in becoming a veteran caregiver, contact your local VA. No medical background is required as the caregivers are provided with training twice a year to learn basic caregiving, medication, CPR, and First Aid. The program also provides individualized training tailor-made according to the needs of their vets in their care.
While caregivers are supposed to take care of the vets' everyday needs and emergencies, the VA sends healthcare professionals to provide daily medical care. Elaborating, Dayna said, "We look for people who have a strong heart and a willingness to provide care. It's a 24/7 job."
Explaining why the program's tagline is "Where our heroes meet angels," Dayna said, "These people really are angels. They're doing such amazing things. Every vet deserves the right to live in a home and remain where they thrive."
World War II veteran, Norman Miller, 93, who moved to Barney's home after a hip injury said that he "jumped at the idea of coming here." He added, “It’s a family situation and I like that."