Nurse comes home to run facility CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

November 25, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Residents, not patients, will be living at Brookfield Manor, a domiciliary care home for the elderly, set to open in Middleburg this spring.

"I don't want any part of an institution here," said James E. Rowe, who will manage the home. "I have worked in them and know what they can be like."

The facility will be "a home offering sheltered housing for those who can basically help themselves."

Mr. Rowe, a registered nurse and the state regional health

services coordinator for Western Maryland, plans to be constantly involved in operation of the home and to monitor residents daily for medical problems.

A resident manager will be on staff for each of three daily shifts. He also has hired a full-time cook.

For Mr. Rowe, the business is like coming home again, returning to the six-acre estate where he spent much of his childhood. When he was growing up, his mother worked at Brookfield Manor Nursing Home and he often tagged along after her.

"The place is full of memories for me," he said, pointing to the spot where he used to sleep. "When I started renovating, I found my mother's employment application in an old file."

He eventually became groundskeeper and often helped with the patients at the century-old mansion, which still reminds him of many patients and the former owners, Phyllis D. Buhrman and Catherine M. Colt.

The experience led him to a career in nursing and gave him a lifelong appreciation for the estate. Although the nursing home closed in 1975, Mr. Rowe and his mother continued their friendship with Mrs. Buhrman and nursed her during her final illness. Mrs. Buhrman left the estate to Mrs. Rowe, who lives in a separate home on the grounds and is leasing the seven-bedroom house to her son.

"Mrs. Buhrman always wanted me to reopen the business," he said.

He applied for permits and worked to meet zoning and Health Department regulations. With the help of family and friends, he is completing the renovation work, including removing layers of "institutional green" paint.

"I don't want any green here," he insisted.

Instead, the walls are covered in floral paper and soothing neutral colors. Some rooms will be left unpainted, allowing the new residents to select their own decor. They also can use their own things to furnish Brookfield.

"We are opening on a shoestring as far as furnishings go, and this is a big house," he said. "It's hard enough when the elderly have to leave their homes and give up their things."

He hopes to draw clients from the surrounding area, where they have sentimental and emotional ties.

"I want Brookfield to be a part of Middleburg, a close-knit and caring community," he said. "We are going to open the house for church groups and others."

He plans to open with eight residents and eventually house 15. The state inspectors told him the home could serve 28, he said.

"I don't want people crowded in here," he said. "I want to keep the home atmosphere, with a living room and other amenities."

His mind is not closed to anything, he said. He may even allow pets.

"I want them to have what they had at their own homes," he said. "The doors will be open for visitors; the grounds are theirs to garden or have picnics and barbecues."

He wants the residents to "love every inch" of Brookfield as he does.

"The residents can enjoy their lives here and not pay a fortune," he said. "This will be their home, and we will all be a 24-hour-a-day family. When we have openings, we will interview new clients together."

Mr. Rowe has done every type of nursing, most recently concentrating on AIDS, and has made the fatal disease his full-time focus for the past seven years. He plans to keep "venturing out there on that road," with lectures on prevention and writing about his experience.

"I am burning out on AIDS," he said. "I need to get off the front lines for a while."

He looks forward to the change of pace.

"The elderly have contributed so much to our lives. They are living history books for us," he said. "I can't wait to fill this home with people."

Until the business takes off, he said, he will continue working for the Health Department.

"There is a feeling of contentment, because my heart is here," he said. "This has always been a dream of mine. Dreams do come true."

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