Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 45
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
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Veterans and Others Enjoy Day Programs at Buckingham Place on Raymond Road

Ellen Gilbert

Amid lots of clapping and high-fives, Buckingham Place adult day program attendees took turns sending a basketball through the “fold-a-hoop” set up in a sunlit hall. Inside the dining room, another group was playing a lively game of “The Price is Right,” while a solitary man listened to Billy Joel on a set of headphones. Down the hall, physical therapist Roberta Scharff addressed the aches and pains of another group.

Located on Raymond Road, Buckingham Place (“Assisted Living and Adult Services”) offers a range of programs that include a special wing housing Alzheimer’s patients, support groups for families of aging parents, apartments for more able seniors, as well as daily activities for people who live off-site.

An important component of the program is the “medical day benefit” provided by the Veterans Administration, covering two days a week of programming for eligible veterans. As a result, says Veterans Specialist Sharon Hurley, “we see many veterans. Just to see them come here and meet each other is something.” Even so, says Marketing Director Hilary Murray, “It’s an underutilized benefit.”

Ms. Hurley, who is also on the steering committee of the local Aging in Place Partnership (, gives community presentations about VA Health Benefits “that most veterans are unaware they are entitled to receive. I am passionate about making sure that the vets know what they are entitled to, through their service to our country!”

Another perk is the Living Legacy Project for Veterans, created as a result of a collaboration between The Aging Place Partnership committee, the South Brunswick Senior Center and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Attention to veterans is further reflected in Governor Corzine’s recent approval of an office for the Veterans Oral Histories Foundation.

“Buckingham Place is proud to be certified by the Veterans Administration to provide Adult Day Health benefits to more than 30 local veterans,” noted Ms. Hurley. “There are some criteria which make a veteran automatically eligible for benefits (POW, Purple Heart recipient, service-related disability); otherwise there is an income verification process. I personally assist families through the process of applying for the benefits, including taking them to a local (Trenton and New Brunswick) VA medical center for a thorough exam.”

“I’m learning a whole lot from these gentlemen,” said staffer Fran Maniscalco, who lead a Veterans’ discussion group recently.

Fresh Food

Among the services available to both day program attendees and residents at the eight-year old facility are a hair salon/barbershop, monthly outings to museums and restaurants, movie screenings, and “freshly prepared meals,” according to Adult Day Center programming director Winston Freeman. “It’s not shipped in from a hospital.”

He also named a pool table, TV, and “nice grounds” for a walk after lunch as favorite activities.

There is flexibility among the programs: if the family of any day attendee goes on vacation or a spouse gets sick, they have the option of staying in Buckingham’s assisted living accommodations. Nursing staff are also available to dispense medications to day people, reported Mr. Freeman.

Social Worker Minda Curtin, who has worked at Buckingham Place for five years, makes home visits to prospective day program adults. “I check the home for safety,” she said. She also likes “to see them in their family home environment. Sometimes their behavior is different here than there.”

“I really enjoy it,” said home health aid Ruby Peters. “I love getting people to their activities. Each person is different.” Current Buckingham clients range in age from 42 to 95, averaging, said Mr. Freeman, “in the early 80s.”

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