JACKSONVILLE (CBSMiami/CNN) — A Florida woman who was desperate to see her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and hadn’t seen him in more than four months has finally found a way.
Mary and Steve Daniel live only five miles apart but he is in a Jackson memory care facility which does not accept visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s really becoming tragic, and, in fact, it’s becoming cruel. These patients are being separated. These residents are being separated and isolated to save their lives, but the isolation is going to kill them. There’s absolutely no doubt about that,” Mary Daniel said.
After not seeing each other 114 days, Mary got a part-time job as a dishwasher at the facility where her husband lives.
The Daniels are finally able to hug each other because she is allowed to visit residents when her shift is over.
“He saw me and said, ‘Mary.’ And we hugged and just like how I thought it would be. Just (to) hold him again after 114 days is just an amazing, amazing feeling,” she said.
Mary says she can already see a difference in her husband after four days.
Steve Daniel has lost 10 pounds because of the anxiety. Before the pandemic, she saw her husband every single day.
“He has no understanding of what I’ve done to get in there. How do we describe it to him when we don’t really understand what’s going on?” Mary said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated those in long-term care facilities. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the ban of visitors another two months on top of the last four, but Mary said the threat of loneliness is a far greater danger.
“Dementia patients need contact. Their brain needs stimulation to keep alive, and when they don’t have that stimulation when they don’t have physical touch, then their brain is just slowly dying,” she said.
The pair have been married 24 years.
Many people ask Mary why doesn’t she bring her husband home.
“I can bring him home, but he’s back to being inside of a house, and I have to work. I’m only 57-years-old and I have to work to pay for his care, so I can’t be here with him,” she said. “It’s a really difficult decision.”
Now that Mary is able to see her husband, she’s now fighting for other people so they can see their loved ones, too. She and others have a Facebook group called “Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too!” and they are presenting a statement to DeSantis, including what has been working for other states.
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