On the Bright Side


Last week I received an email announcement containing a link to a video segment produced by ABC’s New York affiliate Channel 4. In it, reporter Pat Battle interviewed the residents and staff at a local residential care facility called Bright Side Manor. This piqued my interest for a couple of reasons.

The first reason, strictly personal in nature, was the fact that this place shared a name, “Bright Side”, with an orphanage that loomed large in my childhood. “Behave or we’re sending you to Bright Side” was a familiar parental threat used in my neighborhood when us kids were getting a bit too feisty for our own good. I have very vague recollections of driving past a rather austere brick building, set back from the road, complete with an innocent-looking swing set in front. The swings seemed to be perpetually still and unused. I was never sure exactly what went on behind those doors, but I knew it probably should be avoided, and that I should alter my bad behavior posthaste.

The second reason I was intrigued by this email was that, when I looked at the accompanying brochure for Bright Side Manor, I saw that it was operating as a Comprehensive Personal Care Home (CPCH), a designation I hadn’t encountered that often here in New Jersey. So I decided to watch the video and find out more: The Good Fight – Bright Side Manor

The video itself gave me a start. Ms. Battle began by describing a very generous legacy gift that had recently been made to Bright Side Manor by a long-time resident of the facility. Nothing so unusual in that, except the gift had come from a man who grew up as an orphan on a farm in Connecticut and his last name was … the same as mine, or so I thought I’d heard.

I have a fairly unusual last name. I always wondered whether my father’s family name, Deni, had been shortened or changed during the Ellis Island experience of immigration, but no one in that generation would confirm or deny. I knew there were variations, spelled differently by different ethnic groups (Deny, Denny, Denney, Dennie).

I also remembered that my father had told tales about a farm in Connecticut that he had been sent to in the summers as a boy where he worked for the farmer to earn money to help support his family of eleven. Just a coincidence? Could this benefactor actually be some unknown relative? A more careful viewing of the entire video revealed that the gentleman’s name was actually Denny. So, no, not a relative, but an interesting guy nonetheless.

After hearing the story of Mr. Denny’s bequest, I hopped over to the New Jersey Department of Health website. DOH is the regulatory agency for most acute and long-term care facilities in the state. Here I found not only an official definition of a Comprehensive Personal Care Home, but I also saw that I could search for a list of these facilities by county. My unofficial count ended at about 30 state-wide.

And I read the state’s definition of a CPHC:  “a facility that is licensed by the Department to provide room and board and to assure that assisted living services are available when needed, to four or more adults unrelated to the proprietor. Residential units in comprehensive personal care homes house no more than two residents and have a lockable door on the unit entrance.” It’s not that different from the definition of an Assisted Living facility, except that the units do not necessarily include a bathroom and a kitchenette.

The main thing that sets Bright Side Manor apart from most assisted living facilities in our area is that they accept Medicaid waivers under the Global Options program from the get-go with no previous years or months of private payment necessary. It’s also somewhat unique in that it’s owned and managed under a 501(c)3 organization. My investigation into other CPHCs in the state revealed that several are operating as hospices and many are run by religious denominations.

Listening to the personal stories that several Bright Side Manor residents told during the video reminded me that much of our success or failure to age in a dignified manner that preserves as much autonomy as possible is determined by our ability to pay for the help we need. But that’s a topic for another day or two.

So this “Bright Side” story has a happy ending, with excellent elder care provided in a place that residents seem glad to call home. I can only hope that the same was true for the residents of that long ago Bright Side as well.


Blog By Holly Deni