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Assisted Living, Right in Your Backyard?


If you’re one of the 43 million people caring for another adult, you know that while caregiving is rewarding, it also has its downsides, like the fact that your home fills up with hospital equipment and medication, and you may be under the watchful eyes of mom or dad.  One company hopes to solve that situation in a way that doesn’t require you to put your parents in an assisted living facility.  Let’s take a look.

This month, MEDCottage, a small dwelling that can be placed on your property to facilitate caregiving, made its commercial debut in the U.S.  (The prototype was introduced last year.)  A spokesperson for the company calls it a “mini-medical facility” but it’s more like part-clubhouse, part-deluxe-trailer, designed for the elderly.  To install one of these houses, you need a flat space in your yard that’s 300-square feet and some kind of water and sewer hookup (it can sync with the hookups that your home already uses).  Each unit has a kitchen and bathroom, and includes caregiving-related medical equipment and technology such as a hospital bed, wheelchair accessible bathroom, pill dispensers, monitoring systems and “soft” floors that can cushion a fall.

To be sure, MEDCottage isn’t a cure-all for your caregiving woes. You’ll still be the point-person making sure mom takes her medicine or dad doesn’t wander too far out of the cottage, and it’s you, rather than a trained member of an assisted living staff, who must do things like help dad bathe or pick him up when he falls.  And the cottage isn’t cheap: To rent the home, you’ll spend $3,000 to $4,000 per month and to buy it you’ll spend $80,000 to $85,000

That said, MEDCottage offers advantages.  For one, it helps older folks avoid the nursing home (more than one in four people over 65 says their worst fear about getting a long-term disease is ending up in a nursing home, according to a 2010 Genworth Financial study).  And while it may not always be cheaper than an assisted living facility, which costs an average of $3,293 per month, it generally is cheaper than a nursing home, which costs an average of $83,585 per year, compared to the one-time cost of between $80,000 to $85,000 (plus some extra healthcare costs, depending on what your parent needs) to buy a MEDCottage.  Plus, the cottage comes with lots of technology to help you monitor mom or dad, and it gives you (and your parent) privacy.


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.