Veterans foster care now available in Grand Junction

Blind after a pair of falls, but far from interested in living in a nursing home, Marshall Larson, then 86, learned about a medical foster-care program for veterans two years ago and had his son check it out.

After one look, his son said, ‘It’s ideal for you,” Larson said.

What was ideal was living under the same roof with Judy Jennings and her ex-Marine husband, Leonard, in Denver, in a now 2-year-old arrangement in which Larson became the foster guest of the Jenningses.

For Judy Jennings, Larson’s arrival was just the ticket.

“I’ll be 62 on June 1,” Jennings said. “Marshall was my birthday present two years ago.”

Larson and Leonard Jennings buddied up immediately for football games and “things I’m not into,” Judy Jennings said. Her role was to be a caregiver for Larson.

As a nurse who worked with Alzheimer’s patients, she was ready to move on when a new opportunity arrived.

That opportunity was the result of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home program, which is being introduced in Grand Junction. It’s already in place in 62 VA medical centers in 35 states.

“We’re trying to provide a middle ground” between letting veterans fend largely for themselves and placing them in a nursing home or other institutional setting, program coordinator Melinda Roberts said.

Though Larson is 88, the program has no age restrictions. Any veteran who needs the medical care can be placed in the foster-care program.

For caregivers, there’s a benefit, as well. Caregivers receive financial compensation based on the care required for each veteran. In many cases, the veterans pay for the care themselves. In others, caregivers receive assistance from the VA.

For veterans, the arrangement has the flexibility of living at home, where they can have pets and be treated as part of a family, Roberts said.

Medical foster homes receive support and oversight from home-based primary care teams, which include physicians, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, social workers, dieticians, psychologists and recreational therapists.

Potential homes are inspected by teams from the VA and applications are being accepted for homes within 60 miles of Grand Junction.

Qualifying caregivers could be eligible to receive financial reimbursement at the rate of $1,500 to $3,000 a month per veteran with a maximum of two veterans per home.

Judy Jennings is now a widow, her husband having died since Larson arrived. Larson remains in Judy’s care, though, and the World War II veteran said he’s thrilled with the way medical foster care has worked out.

“We have all the rights,” Larson said. “We can take it or not take it.

“In my case, it’s worked out awful good.”

Interested veterans and potential caregivers can contact Roberts at the VA Medical Center at 263-2854.


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