First Person: Crystal Bergman
Crystal Bergmann started using Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) while she was just a teenager still living with her parents. She knew she wanted to live independently in her own apartment and CDPA was a way to accomplish that goal. She moved out on her own in 2007, fulfilling her dream of independence. “Using CDPA made it possible for me to move out on my own, something I had always wanted to be able to do,” Crystal said.
Crystal began to volunteer with her church and in 2008 she was named Ms. Wheelchair New York. She managed her Personal Assistants (PAs) and continued to live independently but discovered things were not as easy as she thought they would be. She began to feel overwhelmed and had difficulty maintaining a staff of reliable PAs.
In 2012, Crystal decided to try using a traditional nursing agency for her personal assistance needs. Crystal thought the change might provide more reliable care and assistance with finding replacements should a PA call out or miss a shift. “What I realized was I often had to wait for or go without assistance if staff were not available. Many times, I wouldn’t even be told if someone had called in and would only find out if I called the agency when someone didn’t show up.”
Crystal was frustrated that her experience with traditional care was not better than her experience with CDPA and began to think about returning to Consumer Directed Choices. She found some potential PAs willing to work and decided to try CDPA again. At the end of 2012, she again became the employer of her PAs through CDChoices.
Crystal’s experience with CDPA the second time around has been different, thanks to the assistance she has received from Margie, the Peer Mentor at CDChoices. “I’m so much more successful this time with CDPA because of the support I have received from Margie,” Crystal said. “She has helped me view my role in the CDPA process differently. I’ve learned about best practices with interviewing and scheduling. Overall, I think I’m a stronger employer because of her suggestions and encouragement. I feel more in control. I approach CDPA as a collaboration, and I’m open to suggestions from my PAs but at the end of the day, I’m the boss and I’m comfortable letting my PAs know if things are not working out well for me.”
Crystal continues to volunteer with a home school group and also assists a child with a disability to complete physical therapy. She hopes to one day to mentor others who are new to CDPA. “I’m an example that anyone can learn to be a stronger Consumer and remain independent at home.”