The Rev. Garth Brokaw, who has led Fairport Baptist Homes Caring Ministries for the last 21 years, plans to retire from the organization at the end of 2011.
The non-profit organization operates and maintains an adult home, assisted-living program and home-care services in Fairport. In December, the assisted-living community was named the Rev. Garth E. Brokaw Assisted Living Community, as a tribute to Brokaw's more than 30 years of service to the organization.
He joined the organization in 1980 as a chaplain and after two years became an assistant administrator. In early 1990 he was named president and CEO, a post he has held since.
Brokaw plans to leave Jan. 1 but said he could leave earlier if a search committee identifies a candidate.
"Their hope is to find someone at least by September. ... Whenever they find someone they feel is appropriate, I will step away," Brokaw said.
In his time with the organization, Brokaw said, he has seen significant changes in the environment of skilled-nursing facilities, moving from a medical model to a more social model. Fairport Baptist Homes often was at the forefront of this movement, he added. Its facility underwent a major renovation to move away from hospital corridors to a household model where residents live in small groups.
"We've tried to focus care on a resident's schedule and letting residents actually direct their own care, which was a major shift," Brokaw said.
This shift was groundbreaking at the time, said the Rev. James Hegley, chairman at Fairport Baptist Homes and pastor of the United Church of Pittsford. After the renovation, all rooms faced inward toward the middle of the facility. Even if residents were in their beds, they could look out to see activity and feel part of a community. It also created a common space where residents dined and socialized.
"Garth has always been a visionary and had that capacity to anticipate needs that are in the community that aren't clear yet," Hegley said.
Staff members also bought into the model Brokaw created, to the point that they no longer wore formal nursing or cleaning clothes but dressed as they would at home, Hegley said. The changes Brokaw created were so influential that it became common for other nursing homes-local and national-to visit Fairport Baptist Homes for the purpose of replicating the model.
Along with a handful of other organizations, Fairport Baptist Homes started the Pioneer Network, which advocates for culture change in elder care models from long-term nursing home care to short-term transitional care. This group has focused on changing perceptions of aging and putting the spotlight on how care is provided for the elderly.
"We've moved further in asking how we change the environment in assisted living across the whole spectrum," Brokaw said. "The network is now so large that they hold a meeting on an annual basis that attracts 1,000 to 1,500 people."
Locally, Fairport Baptist Homes helped create partnerships with other community groups to provide a network of care for elders in the community. The Fairport-Perinton Senior Living Council was created to serve as a watchdog group to ensure seniors in the community have the housing and services they need.
As board president for that group, Brokaw helped identify a funding source that also benefits Fairport Baptist Homes.
"They established a non-profit store in the village called Craft Bits & Pieces, and the proceeds help them purchase services like transportation from the home to the community," Brokaw said.
Fairport Baptist Homes plans to open a similar venture soon, a retail tool shop that takes donations of tools, then cleans and resells them. The income will go toward services to seniors.
Many elder care organizations now are shifting away from institutional care and toward community settings-a change Fairport Baptist Homes has been making for the last 20 years.
"For an organization that is 100-plus years old and for one that started as a retirement home, we were a bit ahead," Brokaw said. "Being able to help people change their mind-set of how we can deliver care has been my pride and joy."
Brokaw foresees a time when all long-term care offered by Fairport Baptist Homes, or any other provider, is community-based. As a result, there is a need to develop more technologies to connect seniors in their homes with care providers in real time.
Fairport Baptist Homes already is working on it, Brokaw noted.
"We as a facility can sit on the hill and monitor 300 to 400 people in Perinton for their blood pressure or other health indicators every day," he said. "There are recliners now that will take your blood pressure when you sit down, and that reading goes to a center where nurse practitioners look at it to see if there are any changes. There are also eyeglasses that can remind you when to take your pills."
In his retirement, Brokaw plans to remain active with the Pioneer Network and the national American Baptist Homes and Caring Ministries. He also hopes to pursue other interests, and as a historian at heart he anticipates volunteering at Genesee Country Village & Museum.
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