JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Mary Daniel went 114 days without seeing her husband, Steve, their only contact through a window screen.
“We did two window visits but they’re incredibly difficult. He cried at both of them, and so it was a difficult decision that I really made that this wasn’t in his best interest,” Daniel said.
Steve Daniel has early on-set Alzheimer’s and has been living at a memory care facility in Jacksonville, Florida for the last year. Before COVID-19, Mary Daniel saw him every day, but when nursing homes and assisted living facilities went on lockdown, his health took a turn, she said.
“He’s been isolated. So, this has been a really, really difficult time for him. He’s lost 10 pounds over these last four months. I’ve really seen him sort of wither away,” she said.
Determined to reunite with her husband of 24 years, she said she decided to ask the nursing home for a job.
“I sent them a letter and said, ‘What can I do? I’m desperate, I need to get in and see him. He needs me. Can I volunteer?’” she said. “Last Wednesday, I get a phone call out of the blue from the corporate office out of North Carolina saying, ‘You still want a job?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I still want a job.’”
She said she was offered a part-time position as a dishwasher.
“I had to do 20 hours worth of video training on everything from food safety to Alzheimer’s disease, to infection control, you know, the whole nine yards. I had to have a COVID test, a TB test, a drug test, a background fingerprint screen. So, it is 100% legit work,” said Mary Daniel. “I actually go in and sweep the floors of the kitchen, mop the floors, do the dishes, and then I get to go spend a couple hours with him.”
She said her new job may not be glamorous, but seeing her husband for the first time since March was worth it.
“He said, ‘Mary’, touched my face. Just to touch me and to know that I was still there, and to hug him. We both cried. I mean, I had thought about it 100 times, truly 100 times of how wonderful it was going to be,” Mary Daniel said.
Now, she wants to help others reunite with their loved ones. She has created a Facebook page, “Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too,” rallying other families to urge Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow safe visitation.
“We can’t give up. We can’t, we just absolutely can’t. We have to fight for them until our last breath or their last breath. And I think we can be successful. I think when Gov. DeSantis, when he sees us and sees our stories, I think he’s a good man. I think he’ll do what he possibly can to help us and to help our family members,” she said.
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