A woman in Florida was separated from her husband due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was placed in a facility seven years ago after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. After social distancing regulations kept them apart for 114 days, Mary Daniel found a way to see her husband Steve again. She became the official dishwasher at the facility he lived in, Rosecastle Assisted Living and Memory Care in Jacksonville.
Before the pandemic came and threw the world into chaos, Mary would visit her husband every day in the evening and help him get ready for bed.
His medical condition made it impossible for him to live at home, but she, of course, wanted to stay by his side as much possible.
“I put him in a memory care center and everything was going really, really well,” Mary told CBS News. “He was thriving with all the people, and in March, obviously everything changed.”
Mary Daniel was Unable to Visit Her Husband During the Pandemic
When the coronavirus hit Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis banned visits to nursing homes to prevent the spread of the virus to immuno-compromised people. Mary wasn’t able to say good-bye to her husband. She received a call telling her that she wasn’t able to come that day, or the countless days afterward. 
Mary had first turned her energy to Rosecastle. She offered to volunteer or bring a therapy dog, but was rejected since the facility wasn’t sure how long the pandemic would last.
After 16 weeks, Mary became restless. She sent “at least a hundred” messages to DeSantis, begging for permission to see Steve, along with other local and state officials, trying to convince them that to stop isolating patients in senior care homes.
“We have separated these folks to save them, but we have separated them and it’s going to kill them. The isolation will absolutely kill them,” Daniel said. “Especially dementia patients, they need interaction. They need to be touched, their brain needs to be stimulated so that they can grow instead of just really wither away.”
She was worried about her husband being alone for days on end, and his behavior was being affected negatively. “He actually had an altercation with one of the other residents, and that’s an indicator of the stress,” she said. “I’ve never seen him get in an altercation with anyone.”
She decided that kind of visit wasn’t helpful. “I think it’s worse when he sees me than when he doesn’t see me,” she said. However, she was determined to find another way to connect.
She Takes a Dishwashing Job and Reunites with Her Husband
When Mary seemed to have reached a dead end with all of her attempts, the corporate office of Rosecastle contacted her and offered her a part-time job. She was willing to take on any position to get her inside and that’s how she became the home’s dishwasher.
With access to the facility, Mary was finally reunited with Steve on July 3, after almost four months of separation.
“He was teary-eyed,” Mary said. “He touched my face, even with my mask on.”
Now Mary could see her husband on a regular basis, for which she is so grateful, especially when the governor extended Florida’s state of emergency for another 60 days
“It has been such an amazing blessing. I have seen him three times,” Daniel said. “I’m working two days a week — and it is the real deal. It is 100% legit. I had to get a background screening, fingerprints, a TB test, COVID-19 test, a drug test, 20 hours’ worth of training, a video on everything from food safety to hazardous waste disposal.”
All of employees in the care center are tested for COVID-19 every two weeks, but she plans to get tested more often through her brother-in-law who is a physician.
“It is worth it to be able to visit him, and I can already just tell the difference in his demeanor after three visits,” she said. “I get to go again tonight… it has made the world of difference for me.”
Although Steve is unable to articulate very well, he communicates through showing affection. “There’s a comfort that comes from me being with him, from me holding his hand,” she said. “That’s how we are able to love and I’m able to comfort him now. And I see him settling into that, I noticed it last night that he was very relaxed as he was getting ready for bed.”
Campaigning to Stop Completely Isolating the Elderly
Although Mary can see her husband, her campaigning isn’t over. She has created a Facebook group called Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too. Their goal is to connect people who are facing challenges with loved ones placed in senior care facilities during this pandemic and urge the government to reconsider visits under certain circumstances.
“It’s really, really, a very, very difficult situation that so many families are in,” Mary said. “And I hope that one of the things this story tells is it’s not just about my success of us being creative… but the plight of so many others that don’t have the blessing I have. We need to find a way. There has to be a better way to do this than complete isolation,” she said. 
- “An assisted-living facility isn’t allowing visitors. This woman became a dishwasher there to see her husband.” Sydney Page. The Washington Post. July 13, 2020
- “Woman takes dishwasher job at husband’s assisted living home so they can see each other during the pandemic: ‘If it gets me to him, I’ll do whatever I need to do’.” Megan Johnson. Yahoo News. July 12, 2020
- ” Woman gets job as dishwasher at senior care facility so she can see her husband with Alzheimer’s.” Caitlin O’Kane. CBS News. July 10, 2020.
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