Christine Whittle’s Story

Christine Whittle is a 35-year-old woman living with her parents and sister in the Timonium area of Baltimore County. Christine is bright and kind to everyone she encounters. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and enjoys listening to audiobooks and music using her Alexa. As a child, Christine was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia; a neuromuscular disease characterized by muscle weakness, loss of balance/ coordination, and progressive loss of cerebellum function. In Christine’s case, it has also caused progressive loss of vision, dysarthria (muscle weakness in facial muscles and the tongue that leads to impaired speech), and bilateral hand contractures. Previously, Christine lived in Florida with her grandmother. She speaks fondly of her time there. They spent time together often and had personal supports to assist them in their home, as they are both disabled. However, in late 2017, Christine’s grandmother moved into a nursing home and Christine moved home to be with her parents in Maryland.

In February 2018, Sara Jacobs began working with Christine as her Supports Planner. Christine was one of Sara’s first participants and they recently celebrated a year of working together! When Sara met Christine, her family was struggling to keep up with her care. With the progression of her disease, Christine is totally dependent for most activities of daily living. Together, they worked to create her Plan of Service which was approved for thirty-five hours per week of personal assistance, as well as other services such as a personal response alert system and an environmental assessment. Sara also assisted Christine in setting up delivery of her disposable medical supplies and becoming a part of Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) mobility. Despite the need for help, Christine is involved in her own care and remains as independent as possible. Her sister, Gwen, functions as her representative for the Community First Choice (CFC) program. While Christine makes all her own decisions, Gwen is able to sign documents on her sister’s behalf at her sister’s request. Christine and her family have all benefited from the CFC program. Christine’s mother, Liza, provides care as one of Christine’s three personal attendants. With the extra help in place from CFC, Liza has been able to return to work outside the home.

Recently, Sara and Christine worked through her annual redetermination process. With the help of the nurse from the local health department, Christine was able to identify that she was experiencing more muscle weakness and vision loss. This was causing her to require longer amounts of time to complete activities of daily living, even with assistance. By working together, Sara was able to help Christine receive approval of an increase of personal assistance to 56 hours per week. During this process, Christine also expressed the desire to move out of her parents’ home and live on her own with support. Sara has assisted Christine in applying for public housing and applying for Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) program assistance. Currently, her applications are pending, but they remain excited to see what comes next! With encouragement, Christine also took initiative in her future planning and put her name on the Community Options (CO) Waiver Registry waiting list. When her name is drawn from the list, she will be eligible to apply for the CO Waiver which could potentially allow for additional services that will allow Christine to live safely in the community.

Christine’s family is very thankful for Service Coordination and the Community First Choice program. She now feels that she has the support to live safely at home and has resumed the quality of life that she had in Florida. Christine’s confidence and satisfaction continues to grow as she continues on her journey and advocates for her own care and happiness.