MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When living at home becomes too difficult for veterans, many end up getting the care they need in nursing homes and other institutions.

But Minneapolis veterans have an alternative. They have access to a voluntary care option called Medical Foster Homes.

In them, veterans live with loving and skilled families that are state licensed and VA inspected. The family provides the actual daily care with the help of VA health care professionals.

Paul Castner, a Korean War veteran, chose to enter a Medical Foster Home.

Like other veterans, he likes to look at photos from when he served.

“Had good memories, yes. Visited some nice ports,” the Navy veteran said.

His life has changed since then.

Medical problems and having no family forced him into nursing homes, until he heard about Medical Foster Homes.

“It’s very interesting to have a family,” Castner said.

The family, with the help of VA staff, makes sure Castner and other veterans in the program get the individualized care they need.

“I’ve had other careers in the past, and this is the only time in my life I really feel like I make a difference in someone’s day and their life,” said caregiver Christy Almen.

She says it’s like being in a blended family.

Family members of veterans are also welcome, as the program has an open door policy.

Although Army veteran Laura MacLean lives in Milwaukee, she and her sister, Patricia Russ, are very close.

“When I was home, I was kind of going downhill a lot,” MacLean said.

When MacLean got sick, her sister knew she had only one option.

“Five-and-a-half hours back and forth every weekend was getting too much for me,” Russ said.

She says working in the Medical Foster Home is the best decision she’s made, and that MacLean’s stay in the home has helped her thrive.

“When Laura moved here, she weighed 67 pounds, and now she is up to 101,” Russ said.

The Minneapolis VA Medical Foster Home Program has 22 homes with at least three veterans living with families. It is the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

There is a monthly rate for Medical Foster Homes. Veterans use a combination of social security, private and VA income to pay.

More information on Medical Foster Homes can be found here.

Reg Chapman