Last modified: April 23, 2021
What Is VA Extended Care and Geriatrics?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA, provides a number of different services for veterans with mesothelioma, their loved ones and caregivers. Some of these services include disability compensation, VA pensions, VA Aid and Attendance and VA Geriatric and Extended Care services.
The VA’s Geriatric and Extended Care programs provide a variety of services, including home health care, respite care, assisted living and community nursing homes. The VA lumps these services into two categories: Home and Community-Based Extended Care, and Residential Settings and Nursing Homes.
- Home and Community-Based Extended Care: Programs within this category focus on health care services primarily provided in the comfort of the veteran’s home.
- Residential Settings and Nursing Homes: These services provide health care outside the home in assisted living centers and nursing homes.
Eligibility for VA Geriatrics and Extended Care Benefits
Veterans must meet certain eligibility criteria to access different services within the VA’s Geriatric and Extended Care programs. This criteria varies widely depending on which service a veteran wants to access.
For example, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care to access residential care, but not all veterans must be enrolled to access community care. To access residential care, the VA must conclude that the veteran needs a specific service to help with their ongoing treatment and personal care.
To be eligible for community care, a veteran must meet one of six criteria. This could include living more than 40 miles away from a VA medical center, being unable to access care because a service is not offered, or the appointment wait time exceeds access standards.
If you need help understanding eligibility or applying for VA benefits, you may contact a VA social worker or speak with a VA-accredited claims agent for personalized assistance.
Home and Community Based Extended Care Services
VA Home and Community Based Extended Care services may help veterans with mesothelioma and their loved ones cope with the disease from the comfort of their home or from medical providers in their community.
Homemaker and Home Health Aide Care
A homemaker or home health aide is trained to help veterans with daily living activities inside their home. Homemakers and home health aides are not nurses and cannot provide medical care, but they are supervised by a registered nurse who helps assess the veteran’s daily living needs.
Veterans with mesothelioma who need help with daily living activities benefit from this program, which can be combined with other Home and Community Based Extended Care services. It can also serve as a form of respite care for caregivers experiencing burden.
Home Based Primary Care
Veterans with debilitating mesothelioma symptoms benefit greatly from the Home Based Primary Care program because it allows them to receive professional health care directly at home.
The final stages of mesothelioma may cause veterans to become homebound because their overall health deteriorates significantly, which makes seeking care in a clinical setting challenging. This program is also available to veterans who are isolated and veterans whose caregiver is experiencing burden.
Skilled Home Health Care
This service goes beyond the services provided through the Home Based Primary Care program. It provides services that include skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care, intravenous medication and case management.
This service helps veterans needing care at home after moving from a hospital or nursing home, and it also is available to veterans with end-stage mesothelioma who require ongoing skilled health care services.
Palliative care is a form of health care that focuses on controlling symptoms and improving quality of life. When combined with mesothelioma treatment, palliative care can help manage cancer symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment to improve a patient’s quality of life.
Veterans enrolled in VA health care are eligible for this service if they meet certain clinical criteria. Palliative care is also available through VA Residential Settings and Nursing Homes services.
Other Home and Community Based Extended Care Services
Other services within the VA’s Home and Community Based Extended Care programs may benefit veterans with mesothelioma, including:
- Adult Day Health Care: This service is great for veterans who benefit from social activities, companionship, peer support and recreation. It can also serve as a form of respite care for caregivers of veterans.
- Veteran-Directed Care: Veterans in this program who need personal care services are given a budget and hire their own workers to meet their daily needs. They work with a counselor to determine the help they need to live at home.
- Remote Monitoring Care: This program allows a veteran’s doctor or nurse to monitor their health remotely. The veteran provides health information through personalized questions using special equipment, a computer or their phone.
- Respite Care: Respite care provides a break for caregivers of veterans. Respite care may be provided at home, an adult day care center or a nursing home. The VA will cover up to 30 days of respite care at a nursing home per year.
- Hospice Care: Hospice care is available to veterans diagnosed with a terminal condition who have less than six months to live. Hospice workers are specially trained to provide excellent care for veterans with end-stage mesothelioma.
Residential and Nursing Home Extended Services
The VA’s Geriatrics and Extended Care services are offered in residential settings or nursing homes and provide two different levels of care.
In general, the care offered in residential settings is appropriate for veterans who need help with daily living activities but don’t require skilled medical care. This could be ideal for veterans with early-stage mesothelioma.
Nursing homes provide more skilled medical care, which may be appropriate for veterans with end-stage mesothelioma.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities provide living space and a sense of community for veterans who may need help with daily living activities but don’t require skilled medical care.
Veterans live in a rented room or apartment and share some living spaces, such as a dining room, and have access to a trained caregiver. Assisted living facilities may be ideal for veterans with mesothelioma who don’t have a loved one who can care for them at home.
Adult Family Home
Adult family homes are similar to assisted living facilities except they are much smaller private homes where six or fewer veterans rent rooms and share living spaces. These homes feature a trained caregiver to help with daily living activities. Veterans who require extra care may hire a nurse to provide that care as needed.
VA Community Living Centers
A community living center is a VA nursing home. More than 100 of them are located throughout the U.S. They provide a sense of community much like an assisted living facility but with the addition of skilled nursing and medical care. This level of care is helpful for veterans with end-stage mesothelioma who require skilled nursing and a higher level of medical care.
Community Nursing Homes
Community nursing homes offer the same type of care available at a VA community living center. The difference is that the VA contracts with individual nursing homes to allow veterans to receive care near their homes and families. This option is ideal for veterans who don’t live near a VA community living center and require skilled nursing.
VA Health and Wellness
VA health care offers a multidisciplinary approach to managing veteran health known as Patient-Aligned Care Teams, or PACT. In 2010, the VA introduced the Geriatric Patient-Aligned Care Team, or GeriPACT model, to address the unique needs of older adults. The VA also offers Gerofit, an exercise program that promotes health and wellness for older veterans.
A VA geriatric evaluation is a comprehensive health evaluation performed by a team of multidisciplinary experts designed to optimize health, improve quality of life, promote independent living and reduce the need for hospital visits and long-term care services.
All veterans enrolled in GeriPACT receive a geriatric evaluation as often as needed. The evaluation addresses physical, mental, psychological and social health to develop a comprehensive care plan for the veteran. It helps veterans and their caregivers learn to manage age-related changes in health.
The Gerofit exercise program for older veterans was founded in 1986 through the Durham VA Health Care System. It was so successful that the VA now offers it at 17 VA medical centers throughout the country. It provides online videos and resources so that any veteran can follow the program at home.
Gerofit helps older veterans stay active through a variety of strength training and cardiovascular exercises. Veterans may participate in group classes, such as dancing, yoga and tai chi, from the comfort of their home or at one of the 17 locations that offer the program.
Veterans receive a personalized exercise prescription and guidance on how to exercise safely and modify routines to accommodate their needs.
VA Caregiver Support
The VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides benefits to veterans with mesothelioma and their family caregivers. VA caregiver benefits include a monthly stipend, 30 days a year of respite care, mental health counseling, caregiver education and training, access to health care benefits and financial assistance for traveling with a veteran to access care.
A veteran can appoint one primary family caregiver and two secondary family caregivers to their caretaker team through this program. Eligible veterans must already be enrolled in VA health care to apply for caregiver benefits.
How to Pay for Extended Care
The VA pays for many of the services offered through its Geriatric and Extended Care programs. They consider a number of factors in determining what a veteran owes for various services, including their disability status and income. Veterans can expect copays for certain services and may need to pay out of pocket for select services.
For example, rent at an assisted living facility is not covered by the VA, but veterans may use compensation received through the VA and other government programs, such as disability compensation, Medicare and Medicaid, to pay for it.
Additional sources of compensation to pay for copays and other costs include a VA pension, VA Aid and Attendance and mesothelioma compensation accessed through asbestos trust funds and mesothelioma legal claims. Veterans may also apply for the VA Fiduciary Program to get their finances in order and maximize benefits offered through the VA.
The VA offers a variety of services that benefit veterans with mesothelioma through its Geriatric and Extended Care programs. Caregivers and loved ones may also access supportive services through the VA, including monthly compensation, mental health care and respite care.
Veterans with mesothelioma and their loved ones may reach out to a VA-accredited claims agent to discuss these services and access assistance in applying for these benefits.
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