Elderly Help:Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity


In a previous post, I discussed things to consider before providing parent care in your home.  Providing parent care in your home may reduce parent care, senior careprivacy for you and your parent.  Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO) is a solution to increase privacy.

ECHO started in Australia.  Under the ECHO concept, a family temporarily adds a small separate unit to their property to provide parent care.  When the unit is no longer needed, it is removed.  The concept has since expanded to include remodeling to build a senior care apartment for your parent in the basement or over the garage.  A separate apartment creates privacy for the whole family and yet is so close that senior care is provided or supervised easily.

Clearly using the ECHO concept as part of your senior care strategy is not something you can do in a rush.  Serious discussions about whether this is the right decision for your family must take place.  If you have these parent care discussions early enough, you can consider a separate space for your parent when you buy a property.

Three key senior care questions you need to answer:

  • Do we want to provide hands-on elder care?
  • Do we have the funds to pay for a remodeling project or to rent or buy a manufactured housing addition?
  • What zoning laws govern ECHO in our community?

Using the ECHO concept can make providing senior care very convenient. The challenge is how do you take a break from parent care while you are living so close?  How much hands-on senior care you are willing to provide needs to be discussed.

If your parent is contributing all or part of the funds for the ECHO unit, how difficult will it be to free the funds if her senior care needs change?  How do other family members feel about your parent using senior care funds for improvements that may increase the value of your property?

Some city's zoning laws support ECHO as a way to increase affordable senior care housing. In other cities, zoning may restrict building or installation of ECHO units. Your neighbors may object even when they know you are remodeling to provide parent care.

Does your parent currently live in an ECHO unit on your property?  Share your experiences.

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--Janice Wallace


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