Receiving personal care at home, as opposed to in a nursing facility or other institution, is not possible without two things: Somebody to provide the assistance and an appropriate place to live. A southern Virginia minister has come up with a possible solution to the second.

MEDCottage is a portable, modular self-contained 24×12 dwelling that could be attached to the home of a family member, friend, or other caregiver. The home contains a small kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, as well as high-tech assistive devices, video monitors, and a lift. It is designed to rent for $2,000-a-month. The Washington Post ran a nice article about it yesterday, or you can check out the company’s own Website here.

This seems to be an ingenious solution to a vexing problem. Some people may be able to retrofit an existing space to care for a frail or disabled relative. But that can be expensive and complicated. A solution such as a modular add-on may be less costly and, in many cases, more appropriate. This may be especially true for people who need intensive personal care for a relatively short time–perhaps because they are recovering  from a severe illness or because they are dying.

Modular living spaces such as this are no panacea. They are probably not suited for very long-term care arrangements, and family caregivers need to be well-trained in how to use all the equipment.

They also face two other issues, One is money: Will Medicaid or private long-term care insurance pay for dwellings such as this? The newly-enacted CLASS Act will since will offer a cash benefit. 

The second issue, reports The Post, is the NIMBY problem. Sadly, but not surprisingly, local Virginia officials oppose the dwellings, claiming they violate zoning laws. Here is what one Fairfax County (Va.) official had to say:  

“Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard?” said Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee). “This is the granny pod. What’s next? The college dropout pod?” 

This sort of thinking is beyond depressing, but it is out there. I hope that as time goes by, technology, financing and perhaps even some good common sense will combine to create some important new alternatives for people to stay at home.