The ‘Granny Pod’ Alternative

The MEDCottage, or so called “Granny Pod,” is being marketed as “family managed health care as an alternative to long-term care facilities.”

The 12 foot by 24 foot portable, modular “medical home,” unveiled this past July, can be purchased or leased and placed on the caregiving family’s property. The homes are equipped with health monitoring equipment and lifts to assist people who have problems with mobility.

Also included are security cameras that sweep up to 12 inches off the floor (foot sweep) in order to observe falls. The cameras can be monitored by computer or mobile device so that caregivers may “interact with them so you are participating in their life.”

The AARP calls it an “innovative idea,” but critics describe the portable homes as “storage containers” and worry about the impact of the mini-dwellings in crowded urban areas, as well as the dignity of senior citizens.

While many surveys suggest that older people would prefer to live independently or with family members rather than in a nursing home, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this 288 square foot space in the backyard is what they had in mind.

Safety features like health monitors and the “foot sweep” may have a place, but communication via computer and mobile device (“the family communication center”) on a regular basis is not the kind of “interacting” and “participating” that most of us would crave on a regular basis, especially if the point of the medical home is to remain with the family.

From a MEDCottage press release:

“The MedCottage model for health care offers a totally new paradigm,” says the Rev. Kenneth Dupin, founder and CEO of N2Care and the innovator behind the MedCottage. “With a daunting reality looming, we must, as a society, consider every option to take pressure off the system. The MedCottage is such a cost-effective alternative – and baby boomers are ready for new options for aging in place.

“With changing family structure and lifestyles over the past century, research demonstrates that end-of-life care is emerging as the most pertinent concern for the baby boomer generation,” Dupin says. “Boomers have a particular fear of being isolated from family and institutionalized in the final stage of life. Consequently, there is a need in the market for an innovative alternative to care for the aging population unlike any current options for end-of-life care.”

NPR reports that the mini mobile home rents for about $2,000 a month.

Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell (R) wasted no time in signing HB 1307, “Zoning Provisions for Temporary Family Healthcare Structures,” into law earlier this year, enabling the mobile units to be placed on private property without special use permits.

This CBS News Report takes a look at the medical homes: The Backyard Nursing Home

The Washington Post quotes Fairfax County, Virginia Supervisor Jeff McKay (D) 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?”

The Post also ran a poll asking the question, “Would you purchase a “granny pod” for your aging relatives? Seventy-six percent responded in the affirmative. While many of these families no doubt have the best of intentions, and for some is a decent alternative to institutional care, there is tremendous potential of misuse, abuse, and neglect.

What do you think? Is this a viable health care alternative?

The Post poll inquired whether or not readers would purchase a medical home for their loved ones. Let’s turn that around and find out if Care2 readers would agree to live in one. Please take a moment to answer the poll below and leave a comment on the pros and cons of medical homes.

Image used under Creative Commons License via Flickr with thanks to eflon


Melissa Mcauliffe

As long as the insurance companies would allow for it to be partially paid, I'd say it was grand idea. I'd love to have my childrens' Grammy stay in our back yard where we could watch over her and yet, she would have privacy. Most people occupy too much space...aged or not!

Theresa C.
Theresa C7 years ago

Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Brenda A.
Brenda A.7 years ago

Bravo, Martha! We are selfish when it comes to losing loved ones! Nobody wants to let them go! Some of our loved ones need out permission to just let go. In the state that I live, Oregon, they have legalized assisted suicide to those with terminal conditions. Many terminal patients have used this option to die with dignity. I for one would rather go BEFORE causing my family the pain and expense of something like this. There are those that would LOVE to have this option outside of their kid's house, in the back yard. There are those kids that would spend every moment that they possibly could with you. There are those that would be absent from the pod. The thing is, you'd never know until it happened. What then, if you're not happy with the arrangement? What if your loving children could not bear to see you declining, declining, declining and became absent? It is a lot to witness this process! I think Martha said everything so well! Bravo, Martha!

Martha Pendino
Past Member 7 years ago

Another idea for the aging, myself included, is quit trying so hard to stay alive. Prolonging the aging process often leads to
existence without quality of life or, in other words, living to exist. Taking 20 meds a day just so you can wake up and take 20 more. Keeping people alive in nursing homes with IVs, feeding tubes, cardiac meds, etc. when they would have died except for our interventions. We need to make the decision to die the way we want. We need to actively participate in the end of life process not just die when the medical establsihment can no longer keep us sucking air. In nursing homes we haul these people out of bed and haul them back in, we turn them and feed them and clean them up and we give them drugs so that they will stay alive so we can do it the next day and the next and the next. STOP THE MADNESS. Dying is a part of life. When a person can no longer swallow or handle their secretions it is natures way of saying it is time to go. When old people stop being hungry and eating ditto. Take a lesson(or many) from nature. Let's stop keeping people alive just so they can breath another day. We aren't killing them we just are not prolonging the inevitable and more often than not we are being kind in letting someone die.

Aditi Acharya
.7 years ago

its OK.

Linda Miiller
Linda Miller7 years ago

I think this is a great and innovative idea. I live in AZ, and my 22 YO son lives in a Casita on the property. My son and I both have our privacy, and we interract at times in the main house.
I like the Pod concept, as when the Grandparent/ Parent does pass on, one can remove the Pod.

Ann P.
A P7 years ago

I really do have to wonder how many of the individuals have actually had to deal with the cost of a Skilled Nursing Facility. Try $900 per day for starts.

It used to be multiple generations staying together was not an unusual thing. I know many people who have put additions onto their homes or Granny flats so the their elderly parents could be close by. I think it's wonderful if you can do it. Not everyone is in a position to do that, or is willing, or would want to.

One thing is certain. With the aging of the baby boomers we are going to be facing a dilemma we are wholly unprepared for. We had better start thinking about this in creative ways or we will be "storing" the elderly in far worse places.

Lori Hicks
Lori Hicks7 years ago

let's assume that your kids are caring and that you don't just stay in the pod but also are invited into your child's home. The pod is a safe haven in the back yard. A place to retreat to, sleep, and relax. Now if your raised kids that were uncaring and kept you just in the pod..well folks you did something wrong.

Marıanna M.
Marıanna M.7 years ago

noted thanks for sharing

Kristy Mitchell
Kristy M7 years ago