Checking boxes and eating oreos

An envelope from Social Security arrived in Edwina’s mailbox a couple of weeks ago. It contained a packet of forms for Edwina to fill out to reapply for disability, and Edwina’s first response was to be defensive.

“Miss Rayan, I got to have that disability check,” she insisted. “I can’t work like this,” pointing to her problems getting around and completing the most basic of tasks by herself–dressing, preparing meals, even sorting through her prescription medicines.

I assured Edwina that the forms reflect a part of the process to make sure that people receiving disability still need it. Anybody with an ounce of common sense would see that Edwina’s situation hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s worsened.

After trying to fill out the portions of the form that Edwina and her sister Linda couldn’t figure out on their own, I headed to Edwina’s with questions and a pen. And oreos, which she had texted me to say she needed “real bad.”

Page by page, we worked through the form. It was slow going.

“Okay, let’s start with doctors at Cooper Green during the past 12 months,” I said.

Bit by bit, Edwina pulled out memories of doctors she’d seen and tests they’d ordered. At the Coop, most of Edwina’s medical care is related to her diagnosis of breast cancer.

Then we turned to Princeton Hospital, which sits just a block away from Edwina’s apartment. It’s where Edwina goes when she’s facing a medical emergency, like when she couldn’t catch her breath and ended up with a diagnosis of COPD, and eventually, an oxygen machine.

I recorded her prescriptions from the bag of bottles she keeps by her side, throwing out those that had expired or she no longer took.

Finally, we got to the part of the questionnaire focused on Edwina’s day-to-day activities, from the time she gets up until she goes to bed at night.

“I get up and wash my face and get something to eat,” she told me. “Then, I do whatever needs doin’ around the house, washing some clothes maybe.”

Edwina occupies herself in the afternoon with her puzzle books and spending time with family. She ends the day with dinner, some tv, and a bath. Then, it’s off to bed.

We finished the form to the best of our combined ability, and I told Edwina that I would slip the large blue envelope into the mail.

Time for milk and oreos.

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