As you or your loved one ages, you undoubtedly begin to look to the future and contemplate how you hope the next five, ten, or fifteen years unfold. Even if a senior is in good physical and mental health, it’s important to have at least preliminary discussions about future living conditions, whether that means finding a quality senior community, a skilled nursing facility, or resources for aging in place in one’s own home.
For veterans, there are numerous care options for when one reaches the point of needing assistance, depending on the amount of help needed. For veterans choosing to age in place in their own homes, a special program by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can help facilitate a trained caregiver coming to the veteran’s home and assisting as needed, with as much frequency as needed. This same program can actually help veterans of any age who need assistance, either regularly or occasionally, in their own home due to disabilities.
Homemaker and Home Health Aide Care is a program is for Veterans who need skilled services, case management, and help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, fixing meals, or taking medicines. This program is also an option for veterans who are isolated or whose caregiver is experiencing burden, cannot physically perform all the needed tasks, or needs an occasional respite.
Homemaker Home Health Aides work for approved local organizations that have a contract with VA. A registered nurse visits the home for an initial assessment, then works with a trained aide so that the veteran can receive the appropriate help with activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding, using the restroom, and getting around the home. The aides can also assist with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) that are not necessary for fundamental functioning, but let an individual live independently, such as housework, preparing meals, taking medications as prescribed, writing letters, paying bills, or using the phone.
Since Homemaker Home Health Aide services are part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, all enrolled veterans are eligible if they meet the clinical need for the service. A copay for Homemaker and Home Health Aide services may be charged based on the veteran’s VA service-connected disability status. Homemaker Home Health Aide services can be used in combination with other Home and Community Based Services.
The first step is checking your eligibility for a Homemaker Home Health Aide is to contact your nearest VA facility, call, and ask to be connected to a social worker. A physician and other primary care providers can also help answer questions that outline how much and what type of assistance may be needed, such as:
- How much assistance do I need for my ADLs or IADLs?
- What are my caregiver’s needs?
- How much independence and privacy do I want?
- What sort of social interactions are important to me?
- How much can I afford to pay for care each month?
To help veterans and their families effectively discuss difficult topics such as longterm care, the VA recommends the Shared Decision Making (SDM) approach, a collaborative, patient-directed process that helps veterans – together with their family caregivers and health care team – set goals and priorities, and make choices that meet patient needs while honoring patient values and preferences. The VA offers free downloadable tools such as the Shared Decision Making Worksheet and the Caregiver Self-Assessment Worksheet to aid in these discussions.
As far as help with paying for home care, the VA also offer the Aid and Attendance pension benefit. The A&A benefit helps veterans and spouses pay for costs of senior care, like home care or assisted living. VeteranAid.org offers a free eligibility calculator for Aid and Attendance to help determine whether or not you may be eligible for the benefit as well as complete instructions on how to apply for Aid and Attendance.
Written by Megan Hammons