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Growing program provides foster care -- for veterans

11:43 AM, Nov 23, 2012   |    comments
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- At a time of year known for giving, you'll be amazed about how some are choosing to give back permanently to veterans in need.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is instituting medical foster care programs across the country; there are three in Georgia, including one for metro Atlanta.

One of its first recipients is Spc. Edward Caldwell, Jr., who served for several years as an organist in the marching band of the U.S. Army.

"We'd show up in little towns and lead the parades," Caldwell recalls. "I've probably walked down every main street in Georgia."

These days, the beautiful music is rarer, and the trembling hands are far too frequent. Spc. Caldwell has spent the last decade battling Parkinson's Disease.

"I can't drive," he says. "I'm losing my musical skills; my technique doesn't work anymore."

Losing his independence, as well as falling periodically for no reason, Edward feared being resigned to a nursing home at just 69 years old.

That's when Audrene Richards entered the picture. The native of Jamaica retired several years back to take care of her disabled husband. When she learned about medical foster care, she saw an opportunity to use her unique position to provide a helping hand.

"I love taking care of people," Richards said. "I love taking care of the elderly, so [the program] excited me because I'd be helping someone."

The V.A. paired Richards with Spc. Caldwell. The caregiver receives a stipend in exchange for providing meals, care, and a place to live.

Says Richards, "They help us, and they help the country, so I think we should repay them by helping them."

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For more on medical foster homes, check out http://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/Guide/LongTermCare/Medical_Foster_Homes.asp. And for more stories by Matt Pearl, check out his Facebook and Twitter pages.

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