Meet Kristina Tangney

“If I did not have the brokerage I might just stay at home – which I like sometimes – but it can get lonely. (Without brokerage services) my life would be so different.”

When asked to describe a typical week, Kristina Tangney, a 34-year old customer at Independence Northwest Brokerage said, “I meet with providers one or two days per week, and then I have to go to physical therapy, different therapists sometimes in the week… When I’m just by myself, I like to read, watch TV, color… those are the main things that I do. I have dinner with my parents sometimes.” Kristina often “dog swaps” with her parents, where the family dog, Goldie, stays with her several times each week.

Kristina lives independently in a townhouse in Damascus, Oregon, where she receives supports with housekeeping, communication, community inclusion, and other living skills. Though she received special education services in another state due to a diagnosed communication disorder, she knew nothing about support services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities until a friend of her mom suggested they apply for services when Kristina was in her mid-twenties and living in Oregon. Kristina’s mom, Janet Tangney said, “And so we applied in 2008 and I had so much documentation, then all she needed was one more test done and she was approved.” At this time Kristina had also developed several medical issues, and received a diagnosis of autism. Kristina was 28 years old when she entered the brokerage support system.

Although Kristina was quickly approved as an eligible brokerage customer, it took trial and error, negotiation and time to find the services that best matched Kristina’s goals and needs. Kristina and her mom found themselves in a learning process that was at times frustrating and at times pure relief as they gradually came to better understand options available to her.

“When she first got brokerage services she didn’t really want to go out with people,” Kristina’s mom recalled. Kristina participated in some small group activities, but her efforts at making friends resulted in several large disappointments. According to her mom, “Kristina tried! She would come home and say ‘I tried!’” but Kristina felt no-one reciprocated her efforts. “Kristina had a lack of communication in school – that was her disability. Now she was working hard to communicate and it was not going anywhere.”

Shortly after accessing brokerage services, Kristina’s life became more complicated. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disease that affects the body’s connective tissues, which only develops in the third decade of life. Janet said, “Basically her tendons and ligaments do not hold her together—they are weak.” The treatment for the disease involves injecting platelet-rich-plasma (PRP), drawn from Kristina’s blood, directly into her joints. “It is very painful!” said Kristina’s mom. Often, Kristina has to use crutches after the injections, and has other mobility issues while the body heals. During these times, Kristina had to stay with her parents until they realized that the brokerage could help. “My brokerage paid for my stair lift,” explained Kristina, who said, “It’s really convenient when I have PRP injections.” The stair lift is a chair that mechanically slides along the wall of her stairway to transport her between her first and second floors, allowing her to continue to live independently even after her treatments.

Kristina utilizes brokerage supports for housekeeping services since she is not able to physically lift many objects. Kristina’s Personal Agent (PA) told them about housekeeping services, designed to keep brokerage customers safe and healthy, and soon thereafter Kristina started receiving help with housekeeping. Kristina said she is grateful that the brokerage “pays for housekeeping because I can’t do physical stuff like changing my sheets, vacuuming, and other stuff.”

Kristina joined Independence Northwest in 2014. “Oh my gosh, they were so easy to deal with!” said Janet as she remembered Kristina’s enrollment with INW. “Larry [INW executive director] is fantastic, Dana [Kristina’s personal agent] is fantastic.” Kristina and Janet consider themselves firm enthusiasts for the style of interactions and services they receive from INW. When beginning discussions with Kristina’s new PA, it was suggested that Kristina try more than one provider, and Kristina started working with Trellis and Opportunities Unlimited, in a combination of 1:1 and small group community inclusion supports. Kristina said that she really liked the young and energetic staff. Her mom raved, “Kristina had a fabulous time! She loved it!” Kristina said that she values “having someone to take me out of the house and meet a lot of people…. I really like that my providers and other customers are either a little younger or the same age as me.” Kristina’s providers are able to use her transportation services to pick her up and take her home since her townhouse has limited access to public transportation. Kristina also uses medical transportation supports.

Janet has found that her daughter’s access to brokerage services has given her unprecedented peace of mind. Brokerage services have “been really nice from my point of view. If we go out of town we can have her providers check on her every day.” She says that parents should know that there are sixteen service categories, which can seem daunting, but that they can work together to create a comprehensive support network. Kristina’s parents are encouraging her to more independently manage her brokerage services as new needs emerge or as preferences change, so that Kristina is prepared to independently use services when her parents are no longer here. They tell her, “When we’re not here you’re going to have to figure this out on your own– ask for help from the providers and brokerage.”

“I’m like a home body anyway, but if I did not have the brokerage I might just stay home,” Kristina says, adding “which I like sometimes but it can get lonely.” Kristina said that without brokerage services, “my life would be so different.” – Text by Molly Mayo