According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 9.2 million veterans ages 65 or older in the United States. These Veterans, like you, served in conflicts around the world including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and even in the Persian Gulf War.
To help you meet the challenges of aging, the VA offers a wide variety of benefits and services. While some are income-based, many programs aren’t. As the son of a veteran, I’m happy to provide this article (and others in the series) to VA Benefits for Home and Long-Term Care in recognition and honor of your service to our country.
Although the VA provides a wide variety of benefits and services for veterans, it also offers a number of services designed specifically to support family caregivers. These programs are available both in and out of your home.
If you’d like additional information or are a caregiver interested in signing up for any of the programs or services listed below, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator by visiting the VA Help Near Home page for assistance.
Peer Support for Caregivers
To help caregivers connect with one another in their area, the VA has also developed a Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program. Through this program, caregivers have the opportunity to share their experience, wisdom, skills, and passion while benefitting from the guidance of others.
Mentors receive training before being paired with other caregivers and are also volunteers at their local VA Medical Center Voluntary Services Department. To enroll in the Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program, caregivers must agree to participate for 6 months, but many participate for much longer.
If you’d like to first try the program out on a more limited basis, the VA also offers a one-time connection through the Compassionate Connections Program. This program offers brief support from an experienced Mentor for caregivers who are not ready or able to commit to a longer-term mentoring relationship.
To learn more about Peer Support for Caregivers, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Building Better Caregivers™
If you’re caring for a veteran, you can build your skill and confidence with a free, six-week, online workshop, Building Better Caregivers™. Recognized for its ability to reduce caregiver stress and depression, and increase caregiver overall well-being, this workshop will help you learn a variety of skills like:
- Time and stress management
- Healthy eating
- Dealing with difficult emotions
This comprehensive online workshop also addresses the specific needs of caregivers who care for veterans with:
- Memory problems
- Traumatic brain injury
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Other serious injury or illness
Participants log on two to three times each week to review lessons, exchange ideas with other caregivers and access tools to make caregiving easier. Developed at Stanford University, Building Better CaregiversTM has been recognized for its ability to reduce caregiver stress, depression and increase overall well-being.
To learn more about Building Better Caregivers™, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) Centers
ADHC Centers are a safe and active environment with constant supervision designed for veterans to get out of the home, socialize with other veterans and participate in social or recreational activities. Usually, the veteran would go to an Adult Day Health Care center 2 to 3 times per week but may be able to go up to 5 times a week.
ADHC Centers employ caring professionals who will assess a veteran’s rehabilitation needs and help them accomplish various tasks so they can maintain or regain personal independence and dignity. At the same time, ADHC Centers allows the Family Caregiver to get some time for themselves Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
To learn more about ADHC Centers, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC)
Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) is a program designed to deliver routine health care services to your home when a veteran has medical issues that make it challenging for them to travel.
Staffed with medical professionals who will come to the veteran’s home, HBPC offers primary care and nursing, medication management, and help planning and putting together nutritious meals. HBPC can also provide:
- Physical rehabilitation
- Mental health care
- Social work
- Referrals to the VA and other community services
To learn more about HBPC, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Skilled Home Care
Similar to Home-Based Primary Care, the Skilled Home Care service from the VA offers skilled medical professionals who can come to the veteran’s home. Services provided can include:
- Nursing care (such as wound care or catheter care)
- Therapy visits for physical, occupational or speech therapy
- Patient education (about managing your medicines or illness)
- A home safety evaluation
- Social work support
To be eligible for this service, a veteran must be homebound and in need of medical services at home. The main difference between Skilled Home Care service and Home-Based Primary Care is that Skilled Home Care uses licensed non-VA medical professionals that have a contract with the VA.
To learn more about Skilled Home Care, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Homemaker and Home Health Aide Program
Feeding and bathing another person can be very stressful, physically tasking, and time-consuming. As a result, that often leaves no time for a caregiver to take care of his or her own needs.
To assist caregivers, your local VA medical center can help arrange for a home health aide who will come to the veteran’s home on a regular schedule if they meet the clinical need for the service. Through this service, the veteran can then receive help at home with their personal care needs, instead of transferring to a care facility.
While Homemakers and Home Health Aides are not nurses, they are supervised by a registered nurse who will help assess the veteran’s daily living needs. Examples might include help with bathing, dressing, fixing meals or taking medicines.
Homemaker and Home Health Aides do not work directly for the VA, but rather for organizations that have a contract with the VA. Their services can also be used in combination with other Home and Community-Based Services.
To learn more about Homemaker and Home Health Aides, please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
It can often be difficult for caregivers to get the veteran they’re caring for to a VA medical center. That’s why the Home Telehealth program was designed to give caregivers ready access to a care coordinator through telephone and/or computers in the veteran’s home to bring the VA medical center to them.
Through Home Telehealth, providers and nurses have the ability to monitor the veteran’s symptoms and vital signs (pulse, weight, temperature etc), as well as change medications or other treatments to prevent serious health problems from developing.
Typically offered to individuals who live at a distance from a VA Medical Center and those with complex health problems, Home Telehealth services can also include education and training or online and telephone support groups for the caregiver.
Please call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home to discuss which Telehealth programs are available from your VA Medical Center.
Respite Care is a service that pays for a caregiver to come to a veteran’s home or for a veteran to go to an inpatient or outpatient program while their own caregiver takes a break. Veterans and their caregivers can receive up to 30 days of respite care per year.
During this time, the veteran’s normal caregiver can run errands or go out of town for a few days without worrying about leaving the veteran alone at home. Respite Care may also be provided in response to a caregiver’s unexpected hospitalization, the need to go out of town, or a family emergency.
Designed for veterans who need skilled services, case management and help with activities of daily living, Respite Care can provide assistance with:
- Preparing meals
- Medication management
As Respite Care can be used in combination with the other Home and Community-Based Services mentioned here, the veteran and caregiver could benefit from the service in a number of ways:
- A paid Home Health Aide could come to the veteran’s home
- The veteran could attend an Adult Day Health Care Center
- The veteran could go to a Community Living Center (VA Nursing Home) or a VA medical center for a short inpatient stay
Part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, Respite Care is available to all enrolled veterans IF they meet the clinical need for the service and it is available.
As benefits for all these programs vary depending on the individual circumstances, you can learn more by contacting the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Palliative Care helps Veterans and their families cure or control illness with a focus on relieving suffering and controlling symptoms. It can be started at the time of diagnosis and may be provided throughout the course of an illness.
Delivered in a way that respects the veteran’s personal, cultural, and religious beliefs and practices, services often include:
- Consults about comfort care
- Follow-up visits by a health care team
- Support with decision-making and defining goals of care
- Promoting the care that supports the veteran’s goals
- Consults with the veteran’s primary care providers and/or specialists
- Telephone “check-in” calls, when appropriate
- Referrals and care coordination to access resources in your community
At its heart, Palliative Care seeks to improve the veteran’s quality of life – including mind, body, and spirit. This allows the veteran to carry out day-to-day activities, and continue to do what is most important to them–like visiting grandchildren in another state.
Since Palliative Care is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, all enrolled veterans are eligible IF they meet the clinical need for the service. Copays may be charged for Palliative Care.
If you’re interested in Palliative Care, please contact the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
Home Hospice Care
During the advanced stages of a terminal disease, Home Hospice Care can offer comfort and supportive services for veterans in their own home—24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The professionals who provide Home Hospice Care understand the challenges caregivers face and are there to help the veteran ease into the final stages of life. An interdisciplinary team of health care providers and volunteers from a local community hospice agency provide the services during this challenging time.
Bereavement care (grief counseling) is also available for caregivers and other immediate family members.
If you’re interested in Hospice Care, please contact the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at Help Near Home.
If you are a veteran or are helping someone who is, there are a wide variety of benefits and service available to you. While some are income-based, many programs aren’t. By becoming familiar with all of the benefits in this article and the other four in the series, you can take full advantage of everything you’re entitled to—making your journey along the gray mile easier and more affordable.