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Patrick Chittum lost his independence. We helped him find it again.

Patrick Chittum’s new apartment is small. But when you ask him the best part of living there, he says, “Freedom. I can do whatever I want.”

At the age of forty, Patrick had spent five years living in a nursing facility after a series of life events caused him to have difficulty paying his bills and paying for medication to treat his schizo-affective disorder.

Life in a nursing facility is very structured and does not allow residents to make many choices. This is sometimes worse when a guardian is withholding consent to activities or insisting on restrictions on the person’s choices, and can even result in residents losing contact with their own families, which was the case for Patrick.

“My dad died in 2012, while I was living in the nursing home,” he recalls. “I couldn’t go to the funeral because it was too far away, and no one would drive me. I also lost my aunt, my stepbrother and my grandmother in that time. Over five years, I really lost touch with my family.”

The office of the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) called Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) in February 2015 because the state of Patrick’s guardianship was unclear, and he wanted to move out of the nursing facility and into the community.

“Patrick was very motivated to regain his independence in the community,” says Kevin Truitt, the DRO attorney who worked on the case. Over a period of months, DRO worked with the LTCO, Patrick’s new guardian, the Assistant Director of Nursing at the nursing home, a HOME Choice transition coordinator and Recovery Requires a Community program, to come up with a plan of action that would get him into his own apartment. They determined the kinds of services he would need, found him an appropriate apartment and helped him find furniture and cookware for his new home.

Within a week, Patrick was working part-time on the assembly line for a Honda automotive parts supplier in Marysville. In November, he took a new job with a different supplier for more money and full-time hours. “I haven’t missed a day yet,” he says.

“I am living proof that there is life and a chance to succeed outside of the nursing home,” he says. “I have found that work is the key to recovery. I would also encourage people to attend as many support groups as possible. I have gone to one at Wings here in Marysville, and it does help get over the lonely periods if you live alone. Also, don’t be afraid to seek help if needed or make friends with a new neighbor, but most importantly, never give up!”

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