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MEDcottages - Housing Option for the Elderly

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Sandra Rohrstaff
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Over 50 years ago, my uncle and aunt built a small cottage at the back corner of their city lot for my aunt's elderly mother to live in. She had a small sitting room/bedroom combination, kitchen and bathroom. My cousins visited her frequently, and she enjoyed the backyard garden and visiting with my aunt in her home. My aunt's mother lived there many years until she died, well past her 90th birthday. I had never seen anything like it before - or since - but it worked for that family and allowed us children to get to have many interactions with that elderly relative. Now, the idea has returned with modern upgrades.

Last year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that allows families to put a temporary structure on their property to be used as shelter for a loved one who is in need of special care. The law defines such temporary living structures as "temporary family healthcare structures" and sets limits on their use:
    *  They can only be placed on properties of single-family homes.
    *  They must be occupied by a relative who is physically or mentally impaired, as certified by a physician.
    *  They 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.

The modular cottages (MEDcottages) are linked directly to the home’s electricity and water lines, and are equipped with devices that monitor the inhabitant’s location and vital signs.

Having safe places for elderly loved ones to live is important to their well being and for the peace of mind of family members. The idea of having our elders living nearby in an environment where they can be monitored and can also interact with the family sounds like a good idea. MEDcottages may provide the right solution for many families.

Before MEDcottages become common, localities will have to hammer out regulations and market obstacles will have to be overcome, such as educating families and health care providers on how this arrangement would work.

Category: Elder Neglect

Sandra Rohrstaff
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Virginia Child Injury and Elder Abuse Attorney

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