To her friends and family, Pat O'Shea White was always known as "The best hostess in Annapolis." Sula Rachal, 81, agrees.
"She's a very nice hostess," Ms. Rachal said, "and she's patient and accommodating."
Ms. Rachal is the first senior guest of Ms. White's uncommon form of in-home senior care. Ms. White calls her home a "senior resort.
"If you've lived that long," she said, "you should have a good time."
Her home, built in 1920, provides a relaxing setting for a limited number of seniors in which only the finest foods are served. Candlelight dinners served on the best china are not uncommon at the "White House." The house consists of two suites, with full baths and kitchens, color TV and cable.
"The seniors get what they want here," said Ms. White, "and are treated like guests in a resort."
Ms. Rachal's favorite foods, strawberries and crab cakes, are served to her almost daily by Ms. White or her assistant, Hester Brashears. They go to concerts, museums, movies and parks. Ms. White provides transportation to other places seniors wish to go.
"She always takes me to the bank and to the doctor," Ms. Rachal said.
For months, Ms. White had tried to find a home for her mother and a friend, a prince from the republic of Belarus, formerly the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. She searched continually for adequate places for them to live but, she said, all the senior homes seemed depressing.
Inspired by the prince's words, "They treat you like you're crazy in these places," and her own conclusions about the senior care industry, Ms. White began to formulate her senior home idea. Four years later, she set her plan in motion, beginning with the addition of a guest house extended from the main house. Other parts of the house were renovated to meet senior needs.
In May 1992 her first guest, Sula Rachal from South Carolina, arrived. Ms. Rachal was given one week to decide if she liked the place. She did.
"It's fun and comfortable," Ms. Rachal said. "They do what they say here."
Ms. White is searching for three more senior "guests." She charges $1,500 a month. Dorothy Parker, of the county Department of Aging, said that's relatively cheap compared to the average $3,000 to $3,200 charged for nursing home care.
Ms. Parker said the county has 30 in-home senior care programs. "They're a real good alternative if you don't need 24-hour care," she said.
Ms. White is licensed by the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and is seeking a license from the state Office on Aging.