Med Cottage or Granny Pod?

littledog(z7 OK)May 6, 2010

Article in the Washington Post about MedCottages, 'a portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family's back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care.'

From the article: 'The MEDcottage would be equipped with the latest technology to monitor vital signs, filter the air for contaminants and communicate with the outside world via high-tech video. Sensors could alert caregivers to an occupant's fall, and a computer could remind the occupant to take medications. Technology could also provide entertainment, offering a selection of music, reading material and movies.

The dwelling would take up about as much room as a large shed and, like an RV, could connect to a single-family house's electrical and water supplies. It could be leased for about $2,000 a month, a cost Dupin hopes will be borne by health insurers.'

Dupin is a Methodist pastor in Salem Virginia, and came up with the idea several years ago as a way to keep seniors close to home and family rather than be placed in a assisted living facility, aka nursing home.

Again, from the article: 'Without even building a prototype or hiring lobbyists, Dupin and his team managed to persuade the Virginia General Assembly to pass legislation almost unanimously this year that supersedes local zoning laws in the state and allows families to install such a dwelling on their property with a doctor's order.' This naturally has city planners and zoning commissions up in arms, as they see the cottages/pods as a way to circumvent zoning restrictions. Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay is quoted as saying 'Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard? This is the granny pod. What's next? The college dropout pod?'

From the article: 'The law defines the MEDcottages as 'temporary family healthcare structures' that can be placed only on the properties of single-family homes and occupied only by a relative who is physically or mentally impaired, as certified by a physician. The structures must be less than 300 square feet and conform to local regulations governing sheds or garages. They must be removed within 30 days after the occupant dies, moves or no longer needs to receive care in the dwelling.'

Do you see this as a brilliant idea, or is it ripe with the potential for abuse?

Here is a link that might be useful: Va. launching portable housing for aging relatives

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It's brilliant, with some down side potential.

Most gramps, grans, would love the convenience of a less medical option, something almost trailer like. Gee, I just checked the link. It's cute!
Trumping zoning, would go over badly, except in an extreme medical situation.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 3:36PM
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"Do you see this as a brilliant idea, or is it ripe with the potential for abuse? "

Both --
I like the idea.
The 'zoning override' is a bit worrisome, but could be made much more abuse-resistant if written with a one-year renewable permit clause.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 4:04PM
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I suppose for some it would be a good idea.

Not for me, I don't think.
I'd rather leave my children alone and go to a nursing home and let them go on with their lives without such a burden.

Actually, I hope if I am able, I'd be able to refuse treatment that would keep me around, just existing.

It's always better to leave the party than to stay too long.
Some of the Indian tribes had it right.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 4:36PM
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kingturtle(Zone 7 GA)

And when the vital signs monitor went flat, you could just have the funeral home haul the contents away for disposal.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 5:00PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

>Some of the Indian tribes had it rightLike the ones that kept the body around, propped up in a corner while they had a funeral that lasted a long time?

Or the ones that put the bodies on elevated platforms?

Death is tough, real tough.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 5:23PM
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* Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
Thu, May 6, 10 at 17:23

>Some of the Indian tribes had it rightLike the ones that kept the body around, propped up in a corner while they had a funeral that lasted a long time?

Or the ones that put the bodies on elevated platforms?

Death is tough, real tough.


No, the old Indians that left the village to go die alone.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 5:31PM
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littledog(z7 OK)

Assuming your backyard was big enough for one to easily fit within the property lines, if it were just a building the person would be sleeping in, I see nothing wrong with it, like the little MIL cottages of old.

But, they're talking about having people living in these 24/7 with electrical, water *and* sewage connected back to the main house, as well as monitoring vital signs and pressure sensors to alert "caregivers" if the occupant falls along with a computer remind the occupant to take their medicine. Huh. If they're right in the backyard, why doesn't someone *in the family* walk out there and remind Grandma about her medicines? The sewage and water hook up alone would drive me nuts if I were in charge of a municipal water supply; imagine the increased chances for contamination all over the system.

There's the $2,000 a month "rental" fee; what's up with that? Why not allow someone to use a renovated portable building and sell it after they no longer need it as long as it meets minimum standards? It seems that the Pastor who came up with the idea is willing to share, meaning I suppose that other companies will eventually be building GrannyShacks, so where are the regulations to monitor how these "cottages" are built and maintained? (Then again, there's the legislator's quip that he wishes he had money to invest in the company, so perhaps we're talking about a state sponsored monopoly?)

It just seems odd the law allows you to have one only as a *rental*, since they are portable buildings, and by their nature easily removed when no longer needed. And let's face it, if your health is at at the point where you need your vital signs monitored by your bedroom walls, camping out alone in a hut in the backyard is probably NOT the best idea. I understand that a $2,000 a month rental fee is cheaper than a nursing home by far, so I expect insurance companies to be on this like flies on honey. I assume the patient wouldn't have to spend themselves down into poverty to get financial assistance with the cost, but without some strong safeguards in place, I see these little huts being used as an excuse to cheaply move Grandma out of her home into a semi neglected state while her caregivers take over her assets. To me, there's a potential for these to become little more than private Backyard Jails for the elderly and disabled waiting to die.

Frankly, I have to wonder, if Grandma is so precious, why doesn't that loving family have the kids double up in a bedroom and move her into the house? (again, we're back to the idea of getting the insurance companies to pay for it; why disrupt your household when you'll be able to get a subsidized temporary storage closet for free?)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 5:45PM
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In the village we live in now and the city we used to live in, 2 structures with independent permanent plumbing cannot be on the same lot. The MedCottage website touches on zoning issues but they don't go into detail as to what issues this cottage encounters. The site also shows a sketch of a bathroom with toilet.

So, either you have zoning issues or you have septic tank cleaning issues.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 8:09PM
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david52 Zone 6

All those old FEMA trailers will finally be put to good use. Whats a little formaldehyde when you're 85?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 9:39PM
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One of the reasons for monitors for problems is that no one can stay awake 24/7. Many families have no one at home all of the time. Until you have had to help take care of an independent older person you will not understand how stressful it can be. Some if you checked on them even once a day would throw something at you or at least cuss you out.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 10:27PM
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Nice for some, but I think it gets into a lot of legal areas with local zoning laws. We couldn't put up one of these on our property... unless it had it's own well, septic, and the county saw fit to change their rulings on trailers.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 11:08AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

System needs to be fixed anyway, if done need for alternative approaches like this might be removed.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 12:46PM
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littledog(z7 OK)

maifleur, As a matter of fact, I have quite a bit of experience with taking care of both the elderly and the disabled, both bedfast and dying as well as those who were ambulatory and simply needing some one to watch over them.

The last person was my elderly, obese, diabetic neighbor with one leg amputated above the knee and the other foot slowly rotting from lack of circulation. When he was released from the VA, we went to is house and tore all the frames off his doors so he could get through them in a wheelchair. We took the doors off his lower cabinets so he could actually reach things, rearranged his counters so the things he most needed were where he could get them rather than hopelessly above his head in the upper cabinets. We put his microwave down where he could use it, and rigged him up a second sink in the kitchen so he could have water. In short, we did whatever we could to modify his environment so he could remain at home. In addition to driving him to dialysis and various appointments in OKC several times a week, myself and other friends went over every day to help out, and he had a home health care nurse come every day in addition to a state provider who came for about four hours five days a week. It was not enough. He slipped and while he was unhurt, was trapped in the shower overnight until someone came by in the morning, his electric wheelchair malfunctioned and locked up leaving him sitting in the middle of the floor unable to reach a phone, he accidentally dumped the contents of the portable commode out on the floor, there are 1000 things you don't think about going wrong that do. Someone needed to be THERE with him, not just nearby, not a phone call away, there. After almost three weary months, he checked himself into an assisted living facility, and I'll never forget when I went to visit him he said "It's noisy here, but I can sleep at night."

Of course no one can stay awake 24/7, but that's why you're supposed to "take turns" with other "loving" family members, that's why people hire "sitters" to come in and stay with their relative when they are unable to. Otherwise, you end up like my neighbor, dependent on whatever time your friends can squeeze out, and just hoping that nothing really bad happens when you can't get a hold of anyone.

That's the problem with the whole concept of the Granny Shack; if the condition of your health is such that you need your *vital signs* monitored 24/7, you do not need to be stuck out in a box in the backyard by yourself. For that matter, if there isn't at least one person in the family home *at all times*, why would you allow them to go off and leave an elderly or disabled person alone in a glorified garden shed like the family dog?

How about, rather than planning to isolate the elderly and disabled in a rented "pod" in the backyard that doesn't even have to meet local zoning requirements, we develop programs that PAY people to stay with them round the clock, even if they're family members? Require some minimal training, have the cost covered by insurance and assistance programs. People would get to stay at home longer where they are healthier and happier, and it's certainly less expensive. Imagine if we had an a generation of people trained to take care of each other, rather than dump the problem and walk away? When the patient get to the point that they need their vitals monitored 24/7, there are other options like hiring more skilled help or even entering an assisted living facility.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 3:22PM
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I could never relegate anyone to a box in the backyard... it's bad enough that I have to keep my male dog out in a heated kennel building, specifically and comfortably built for dogs!

I was very lucky that both of my parents were able to remain at home as they aged... they both passed away from different types of leukemia. They both were able to pass away at home, as they wished... and my siblings and I helped care for both.

America is one of the only countries that doesn't place value on its elderly, and doesn't seem to want to care for aging and ailing relatives. We relegate them to nursing homes or other facilities.

I realize that some require specialized care that the average person can't administer, but it seems like a good portion of people just don't want to have elderly parents or relatives move in and live with them...

Personally, I think we could take a lesson from how the aging are treated in other countries... such as Japan, etc...

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 7:35AM
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I went to the unveiling of the prototype. You can read about it here:

You can also find links to the pictures that I took. It is definitely NOT a pod!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 10:39AM
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Sounds like putting granny in a fancy dog house in the back yard.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 2:05PM
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My mother died at age 92 and spent the last five years of her life in a nursing home. Because she had run out of money she had to share a small room with a stranger. Those last four years of her life were so sad. My sister and I visited her several times a week but we both had to work to support ourselves and help pay for her skilled nursing care. She was never happy there and I deeply regret those years. I do not want to live in a nursing home. it is impersonal and lonely and poorly staffed. I would much rather be stuck in a pod in my daughters backyard where my medical needs could be monitored but my daughter and her husband and children could still have their privacy. I expect that I would still require a home health aide or some skilled nursing but I would be close to my family which is everything when you are old and needing care. Those who say it is like putting granny in a dog house, what would you suggest doing with granny after she breaks a hip and needs help with many things. Living in a nursing home is often very isolating and demoralizing. We must keep searching for more humane options. The Med cottage is a start.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:31PM
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Oh, and all the little zoning nerds can take a hike. I knew what they were the day I watched a grown man beg a bored zoning official for permission to build a shed in his own backyard. It is pathetic how we have turned meddling into government.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 4:57AM
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The prototype is far too large for many local urban properties, many of which have no onstreet parking, limited or zero off-street parking, no yards, small yards, limited access to back yards, shared driveways, right-of-ways, or location issues due to snow, ice, sidewall boiler, furnace and water heater vent terminations.

In the North Country, frozen and cracked water piping are also issues with structures without foundations such as mobile homes, park-model campers and seasonal vacation homes/camps.

Many older homes have fuse boxes and wiring that would have to be upgraded before they could supply electric to an additional structure. Same applies to plumbing.

I've been warned, ticketed or fined for living in my construction trailer, RV or campers on some of my own urban properties. There's always some nosey, jealous or miserable urban a$$hole that will report neighbors for various code, zoning, safety or blight code violations.

Due to strict town, village and suburban zoning laws and codes prohibiting small structures, mobile homes, multiple homes, multi-family homes etc, these units wouldn't be welcome.

With so many people losing homes to foreclosure, or being evicted from apartments, they'd likely end up shacking up with granny in her Med Cottage.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 7:01AM
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