Empowering Independence Episode 2 – Consumer Testimonials

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It’s time for Episode 2 of the CDChoices Empowering Independence Podcast. Join host Blaise Bryant, CDChoices’ Communication and Outreach Associate, as he talks with three CDChoices Consumers: Abigail Radliff, Gerald Dickson and Russell Eisman. Click on the player to listen. A full transcript follows below.

Empowering Independence Transcript:

Episode 2 Transcript.pdf

Episode 2

June 28, 2019

Blaise Bryant: “Welcome to Episode 2 of the Empowering Independence podcast from Consumer Directed Choices in Albany, NY. I’m Blaise Bryant. Thank you so much for listening to Episode 1 and giving us some really awesome feedback, and I can assure you that Episode 2 you’re really going to like much better. And speaking of Episode 2, we’re largely going to be taking the show on the road as we will have some clips from Consumer testimonial videos, cuz they were so good, why not throw them in a podcast, right? It’s just what you do when you do videos and podcasts. We’ll hear from three Consumers, Abigail Radliff, Gerald Dickson, and Russell Eisman right after the break. Before we do that, we have some fundraising to talk about. On June 1st we’re going to be starting off a really awesome fundraiser, something we haven’t done before, and here to talk to us about it is the person that’s been coordinating the fundraising, our Communications and Outreach Specialist, Denise DiNoto.”

Denise DiNoto: “We wanted to try something different and exciting for fundraising rather than just a boring annual campaign. We decided we were going to try and sell silicone cause bracelets, you know those colored wrist bands that people buy to support different causes, uh there’s teal for ovarian cancer, pink for breast cancer. We decided we were going to sell blue wrist bands and they say live independently because at CDChoices we are all about empowering people to live as independently as they can in whatever way works for them. We’re selling them at our family fun day event, Consumers and their Designated Representatives and their PAs can buy them for $5 apiece. We’ll also have a link to sell them on our website,, and we’ll also have them available in our office if people want to stop by and see our office at 7 Washington Square in Albany, we’d be happy to sell you them as well. They’re $5 apiece, and you can proudly show your support for CDChoices through a simple wrist band purchase.”

Blaise: “That’s fantastic. So how come we’re doing things this way?”

Denise: “Well, we wanted to do something that would allow our Consumers to participate in supporting Consumer Directed Choices, and many of our Consumers support us through a variety of means – they talk about us on social media, they talk about us to their friends and family, and financially they may not be in a position to donate a large sum of money, but we wanted them to feel like they could support us too. So we chose the wrist bands as a way for them to possibly sell the wrist bands themselves if they don’t have the ability to buy them, or something that could easily be shipped through the mail if they weren’t able to physically get to our office and have them feel that they could be a part of something related to development as well. We also want to help provide, continue to provide programs for our Consumers that may not be covered by the Medicaid money that pays for their home care. We want as much of the Medicaid money that we receive to go directly to our Consumers’ Personal Assistants in wages and benefits. We operate on a very low overhead of administrative costs and we want to keep that administrative cost low. So, any of the fundraising that we do goes specifically toward special projects, like our Constance Laymon Personal Assistant Recognition Ceremony or our Family Fun Day, where Consumers can gather to have fun with their family and friends in an accessible venue with activities that are accessible for them.”

Blaise: “But we’re doing things a bit differently in terms of the uh annual campaign, you see a lot of this stuff being on Giving Tuesday, which when you and I were sort of having these conversations a few months ago, we came up with the realization very quickly that that’s pretty hokey, and everyone does it, and that doesn’t allow us to be different.”

Denise: “Right.”

Blaise: “So the timing is different this time around.”

Denise: “The timing is different and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with people who design campaigns around Giving Tuesday, if that works for them that’s fantastic. But we’re all about independence, and Independence Day happens to fall right smack in the middle of summer, and we wanted to coordinate our fundraiser around Independence Day since we are, after all, empowering independence and encouraging everybody to live independently. So, our fundraiser starts in June. So hopefully we will be in high gear by the time Independence Day rolls around, and you can help us promote independence for other people by participating in our fundraiser.”

Blaise: At Thanks Denise.”

Denise: “Thank you Blaise.”

Blaise: “We’ll take the show literally on the road after the break here on the Empowering Independence podcast.”

Break: “Consumer Directed Personal Assistance supports seniors and people with disabilities. It gave me an opportunity to hire my own assistants, be able to direct my own care, they could help me live an independent life. To learn more, visit”

Blaise: “Every six months or so, we reach out to Consumers and designated representatives to get some testimonials on the value of CDPA. Because the reality is everyone’s story is different, and CDPA has many stories! We have about nine hundred and fifty Consumers, who employ nearly 2000 Personal Assistants. Today, we’re going to hear from three of them. Our first one is Abigail Radliff. She’s in her mid-twenties, is a wheelchair user, and is very active in her community. Abagail does a speech disability which might make it difficult to understand her. So, to help us out Denise DiNoto is going to repeat what Abagail says. Without any further ado, let’s meet Abagail.”

Abigail Radliff: “My name is Abigail Radliff. I live in Stillwater New York, near the Saratoga National Battle Field. I like to bike. I like to row. I like to hang out with family and friends, my mother Alison, my father Bob, and my brother Schuyler. I like to ski and hopefully by the winter 2020, I’ll have sled hockey practice every weekend.”

Blaise: “Everyone’s program at CDPA is different, so here’s how Abagail manages hers.”

Abagail: “I get to hire my own Personal Assistants and I think that’s one of the beauties of this program. I look for people who are friendly because you are with them a lot, so you need to have similar interests. It can’t be all like business, you need to get to know them on a personal level. I’ve got to schedule. I’ve got to make sure they are coming. I’ve got to look over their time sheets, sign the time sheet, I wanna know who’s helping me every day.”

Blaise: “Every Personal Assistant has a different skill set. It’s up to the Consumer to find out where everyone’s strengths and areas of improvement are. Here’s Abagail talking about what her PAS do.”

Abagail: “Through CDCPA, my PAs come in five days a week. They help me around the house and with personal care, bathing, showering, keeping my room clean, making my bed.”

Blaise: “If she didn’t have CDPA…

Abagail: “I would be in a day hab, and I know people need them, but I did that for three years of my life, and it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m a really active person. I got really bored there.”

Blaise: “One of the reasons why we thought Abagail would be a grate candidate for a testimonial video is because of her interest in advocacy.”

Abagail: “I went to a training at Consumer Directed Choices in January 2019, and there I realized that the Governor is trying to get rid of the program. And that’s not good, and I could be put in a nursing home. I’m 25 years old. I’ve got so much to live for, I don’t want to lie in a bed in a nursing home. Through CDPA, my Personal Assistants have allowed me to stay at my house in the community.”

Blaise: “It is because of her advocacy and her just being out there in the community, she was able to get an internship.”

Abagail: “I have an internship at the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley. I started that in March of this year, and I’m learning so much. And I realized I want to go into the advocacy field. I want to help people to know the laws and what they’re allowed to do with Consumer Direct.”

Blaise: “If you are on the fence about whether CDPA is a good fit…”

Abagail: Go for it because it’s way worth it being able to hire and fire your own PAs!”

Blaise: Up next, Mister Fantastic, here on the Empowering Independence podcast.”

Break: “Consumer Directed Personal Assistance supports seniors and people with disabilities. It gave me an opportunity to hire my own assistants, be able to direct my own care, they could help me live an independent life. To learn more, visit”

Blaise: “Our next Consumer is Gerald Dickson. Gerald is in his mid-eighties and he uses oxygen. He is without a doubt one of the most upbeat positive people you will ever meet. So, without any further ado, let’s meet Gerald!”

Gerald Dickson: “My name is Gerald Dickson and uh I live here in Albany um New York. I live in my own apartment, uh, studio apartment that works perfectly for me. A limited space, but yet still a sufficient amount of space, and I don’t have to walk that far to get to any aspect to get to my apartment. And it’s easier for me to maneuver. Actually, one of the idea I enjoy doing is I play poker online. Um, that’s good, bad, or indifferent, I enjoy it. Not necessarily for money, cuz there sites whereby you can do it for nothing. And I just enjoy the camaraderie, the competition. Uh I’ll play poker, I’ll play cards, all kinds of cards.”

Blaise: “One of the reasons why we wanted Gerald to do a testimonial video with us is because it was a unanimous consensus around the office that Gerald is just one of those people that as soon as you hear him talk, the smile on your face just grows. My goodness, were they right. Here he is talking about why he is so positive and upbeat!”

Gerald: “Gerald is up, optimistic, expect the very best outa life 24/7. I am fantastic 24/7 because I choose to be. Having found out how life works and being um obviously a positive mode 24/7. I understand how it dictates to my life overall. I guess because I spent most of my uh adult life reading books, finding out how life works. I found out how life works, and it’s based upon how I think and what I believe to be. And because of that, uh, my life is directed by my thinking, my continuous thinking, my habitual thinking in any area of my life. And because I read a lot, I found out that uh life is a fantastic adventure and never a bore. And I found out that uh I can live any life I choose. Unfortunately, when I was younger, I chose to take up smoking, which is not a good thing. Because I smoked for a number of years, I now have COPD, and COPD is not a good thing to have. Thank God I’m still able to walk, talk, do most of the things. But I can’t walk as much as I would like, and I say I can walk, I can move I guess would be a better way of explaining it.”

Blaise: “It is because of CDPA that Gerald is able to be positive is because of all the things his PAs help him with.”

Gerald: “CDPA helps me by uh providing me with the help that I need from day to day. Such as uh helping me to do the things I I’m not unable to do. I’m limited because of my COPD. I get knocked out of the box quite often because of action. As long as I’m sitting here, I can probably talk all day and I’m just fine. Too much activity, (sound of Gerald rubbing his hands together) just rubbing my hands, washing my hands, uh moving about in any act of picking up something, etc. etc. I’m just not unable to do, I can do it, but the price I pay for doing it is um too much. So I the reason I have aides now through CDPA, the reason they uh they are literally they’re help, to help me , not to do necessarily, but to help me to do that which I have to do, cooking, uh everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything.”

Blaise: “I asked him about his greatest joy.”

Gerald: “My greatest joy is to share my philosophy on life. I’m up, optimistic 24/7. Nothing and nobody takes my joy, my peace away, and that is really a choice that I have made in my own life. And to be able to share that with people that I end up hiring who are out looking for jobs and they’re in this industry, um supplying for seniors. I get the greatest joy being able to share with them my positive way of thinking, my outlook on life overall. And… to give, to share with them things I’ve learned over the years. I’ve been on this Earth plane, and uh to see or to hear their response, or to share a tape, or just in conversation, literally help them understand how life works to some degree and get them started on a spiritual journey, that is my greatest joy right now in life, period.”

Blaise: “In terms of advice?”

Gerald: “Really, if you were really considering utilizing uh Personal Assistants, I would definitely go through CDPA. Merely because of the fact that I’ve had experience over the last number of years and the aides that I had gain access to, I create them in essence. I train them, etc. And going through CDPA aides they do not control, they’re not controlled by an intel – an agency, but they’re controlled by me. I create from… from one to ten, I create them. It’s good for me to have control of my assistance. I’ve been through agencies whereby they send me whomever, and I have to learn to trust and learn to believe and learn… and they just didn’t work out for me, at all, very very few. And what what CDPA… it’s so different because I have control over their hiring, training, and literally molding them like a sculpture would to be the type of people I prefer and that’s a good thing.”

Blaise: “Up next, we’ll meet Russell here on the Empowering Independence podcast.

Our final Consumer is Russell Eisman. Russell is in his mid-sixties, and uses oxygen, and has a very wonderful and fascinating story to tell. Not just about his life, but the value of CDPA. So, let’s meet him.”

Russell: “Hi, my name is uh Russell Eisman. Uh I’ve lived here in Coxsackie, Greene, in lovely Greene County for fourteen years. Uh I lived in uh Ulster County for over twenty and in New York City for the better part of twenty years. Had my own business down there, managed to go to law school, was a practicing attorney. I share my home with uh uh very lucky, my friends and a number of very close feline and canine uh relatives. Uh, (Russell laughs) they’ve all kinda adopted me.I uh went into a coma four years ago, and in fact we’re coming up on an anniversary, May 5th is gonna be four years. They never expected me to uh have any sort of recovery, to get off uh a feeding tube, to get uh to be able to walk, talk, or uh become a person again. And uh thanks to a large part to my PA, CDC, Visiting Nurses and a co-chair of uh medical and uh support staff that we’ve been able to put together, they’ve allowed me uh to live in my own home and uh reestablish what has become the new normal… um in the life of uh a vagabond. I live uh within the parameters, mostly of uh these four walls, um through the modern technicalities, of books, uh lots of exercise, and my ability to walk, and my ability to use an iPad to communicate.”

Blaise: “One of the reasons why we wanted Russell to do a testimonial video is not only his story, but his advocacy efforts. He calls legislators on a regular basis to make sure they know the value of CDPA and why it’s important to him. Here’s why.”

Russell: “CDPA allows me to have a life. Um I’m not limited to uh an institution. Uh institutions have rules and uh I don’t see …rules. Rules fit in boxes, and my life is made up of uh a comprehension of string theory where I can take boxes, open the corners, and find a way to go around the edges. That’s much more fun.

I, I think uh it’s a real shame if you live your life the way it’s put in front of you – you don’t look for ways to make it, and what you do with it, uh an experience. We’re only going to pass this way once, and while I’m passing this way I’m going to enjoy it ‘til I get to the Rainbow Bridge and Sammy will be waiting for me, and uh we have a lot of places we can explore throughout the galaxy. Uh that new black hole that they’ve found ,uh reminds me greatly of Sauron’s eye, and uh I think that uh we’re going to see if we can pick up Arawen and uh Sammy and I are going to do some exploring, and see if the fifth ring is available or if uh we have to leave that here.”

Blaise: “Adjusting to the new normal as Russell puts it would not be possible without CDPA. He talks about what his PA does.”

Russell: “I miss the things that I can’t do anymore, that Cheryl has taken over… um where I used to enjoy being uh… I tried being a chef of sorts, and uh I’m self-taught out of books and uh I enjoyed my food. It was uh spicy to quite a number of people. Um Sammy enjoyed it, and a number of other people have at least tolerated it. Um I can’t, because the oxygen, I can’t really uh go shopping, uh cooking, or uh doing a lot of the things that I would like. Uh I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, that’s bad, I’m kidding! But uh it definitely would be hard, I’m only on a 25 to a 30 foot leash, and uh it does make it difficult. They do have uh the oxygen tanks that can be put on your back, but uh I did so much damage to my lungs that it’s not likely at the present that I would be able to use those systems.”

Blaise: “But it’s not just his PA Cheryl that helps him out in terms of adjusting to the new normal, he also has a late four-legged friend to help him out.”

Russell: “Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a health care proxy who is also my friend, who’s worked with me very closely to understand uh the meaning of respiratory therapy. We’ve done a lot of reading. We’ve done a lot of learning, and due to that we’ve been able to conquer and overcome many of the impediments that uh have been in the way.

Uh, it had been said that we would not be able to make a go of this. I’m only too happy to uh tell everyone, “We sure did.” And we’re continuing doing that. And uh I’m very very lucky. I wish my baby uh Sam was still with us. It was really the light of my life. She really taught me to understand people and uh… I won’t say animals cuz she was much more than an animal. But with Cheryl’s help and Sam’s encouragement, uh the new normal is a wonderful place to be.”

Musical interlude

Blaise: “Thank you so much for listening to Episode 2 of the Empowering Independence Podcast. Please make sure you subscribe to the Empowering Independence Podcast wherever you get your podcasts! And let us know what you think, Special thanks to Shawna Nunziato, our transcriptionist, for everyone that came on the show. Denise DiNoto, not only for fundraising, but to narrate the words of Abigail Radliff for the testimonial video, as well as Gerald Dickson and Russell Eisman. Be sure to help out if you can with our fundraiser, And we look forward to talking to you again on Episode 3 of the Empowering Independence Podcast.”

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