Mary Daniel visited her husband Steve every day at her memory care center in Florida, until they stopped allowing visitors in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus kept them apart for 114 days.
Daniel said the isolation affected her 66-year-old husband, who has Alzheimer’s. So when the facility offered her a part-time dishwasher job, she took the opportunity.
“I told them, ‘I’m going to be the best dishwasher you’ve ever had, because I want to be here, because I need to be with him,'” she told CNN.
Before COVID-19, Daniel said that she helped her husband get ready for bed every night and they watched TV together before putting it on.
“That was our set routine, and suddenly, I left,” she said. “And he doesn’t know why. He can’t understand why.”
She said they tried to make visits out of the window, but they annoyed Steve. He can’t keep talking, she said, so visiting FaceTime didn’t work well for them either.
Daniel, 57, said seeing her husband after she finished working is an advantage, but she is doing the dishes, mopping the floors and cleaning the kitchen like any dishwasher.
“It’s legitimate, I had to do a COVID test, a TB test, 20 hours of video training and a drug test,” she said, adding that she would use her paychecks to do something good for the rest of the team.
She worked the first shift on July 3 and said that Steve recognized her, even with the mask on.
“I went into his room and he said my name, he said Mary, which was also a relief,” she said. “So when he said, Mary, and gave me the biggest hug, I mean, we both cried.”
She said that her husband seems much more relaxed since she was able to see him, and he even hugged her during a recent move.
“He came from behind me and put his arms around me … which is an incredible feeling,” she said. “So, he knows who I am. There is no doubt, he knows who I am even in a mask.”
Florida issued an emergency order in March which prohibits visits to nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities, except families and friends in end-of-life conditions. Governor Ron DeSantis extended the restrictions this week for another 60 days.
“Visitor restrictions were put in place in communities across the state as a security measure, designed to protect the vulnerable population we serve. But this has been difficult for families and residents, so we felt that creative solutions were needed, especially in the case of Mary and Steve, “said Kelley Withrow, executive director of Rosecastle in Deerwood, in a statement.
“We are happy to report that Mary is starting very well in her new role, and we are excited to see the positive changes in Steve’s behavior as well.”
Daniel said he understands why the rules are in place and appreciates the hard work that everyone is doing, but thinks there must be a better way.
She asked the State and Governor DeSantis to adjust the restrictions and initiated a Facebook Group with other families to try to find other options.
“It is incredibly sad to see that these patients are decreasing significantly because they are isolated,” she said. “We are isolating these patients to save them, but isolation is killing them.”