Looking for a place for your elderly parent(s) to live? If you don't have enough space in your home and don't want them to go into a nursing home, MEDCottages, also known as âGranny Pods,â are the latest rage.
Well, they could be.Â Though it seems like the MEDCottage is meant to prevent loneliness, I fear it will promote it.
In the next 10 years, America's elderly population is said to double. According to AARP surveys, many older people would rather live at home or with family versus elsewhere. I know, in people's final years, the quality of their lives is key, and MEDCottagesÂ do appearÂ to have many pluses.
The look of a MEDCottage reminds me of a guest houseâonly, with nursing home amenities inside. But, instead of renting it to just anyone, you purchase the MEDCottage for your loved one. Prices vary, from $85,000 to $125,000, and you can see sample ones here.
A company in Blacksburg, VA created the MEDCottages, and Virginia Tech helped out, too. As long as your backyard is properly zoned for it, you can build a MEDCottage of your own.
The interior is like a mini nursing home and contains high-tech medical equipment, like hand railings, a video camera system so you could see what's going on insideâi.e., if your parent needs help, and a soft floor to protect the person if they fall.
Plus, it's ADA compliant, meaning there's enough room for someone to get around in a wheelchair. There's also something called a âvirtual companion,â which will play messages like, âit's time to take your medication.â
While all these high-tech features sound nice, doesn't having a âvirtual companionâ defeat the purpose of your loved one being in your very own backyard? Wouldn't a family member want to be there in person to make sure that their parent takes his or her pills?
Will the cottages ward off family members from visiting their elderly parents in the cottages? Will they think, âWell, my mom is fineâshe's right in the backyard, and the video camera will let me know if something's wrongâ?
My grandmother is 93 and lived with my motherâunder the same roof, not a MEDCottageâup until last year. My grandma's bimonthly falls soon turned into weekly ones, then daily ones. At the same time, my mom had multiple hip surgeries and couldn't walk or bend down well.
Private nursing care was getting more and more expensive and my mom eventually chose a nursing home for my grandma. My grandma had been in and out of several (not-so-great ones) over the years, between hospital stays, and the one she's in now seems like the best in terms of keeping the residents busy with activities (like trivia and afternoon tea and ice cream socials), outings to restaurants, and so forth.
The nursing home makes sure that residents stay active and are not left alone. In addition, my mother and I take turns visiting my grandma, so someone is there every day.
On the one hand, the MEDCottages seem better than an average nursing home? but only if the family members living in the main house actually spend time with their elderly loved one(s). My main fear is that the family in the main house would not visit the cottage often enough and the elderly parent(s) would feel even more lonely than they were before, or more lonely than if they had companionship at a nursing home.
While, yes, one's aging parents may like the sense of independence the MEDCottages seem to provide, the independence comes at a priceâpotential loneliness.
So, while I commend the invention of the MEDCottage, I'm still a fan of an elderly family member living in the main house, not outside of it, alone.
But, as we know, what happens to the elderly when they cannot care for themselves is an ever-changing and controversial issue. In the end, I think it's a case-by-case basisâor, in this instance, a pod-by-pod basis.
Photo by Borya