July 13, 2020 at 8:46 AM EDT – Updated July 13 at 8:46 AM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WJXT/CNN) – A woman was desperate to see her husband, who is fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
He lives in a memory care facility full time, and since long-term care facilities are not accepting visitors because of the pandemic, they hadn’t seen each other in more than three months.
Mary and Steve Daniel live only five miles apart. They hadn’t seen each other in 114 days until 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.
Mary Daniel says after she was hired, Rosecastle at Deerwood told her when she’s finished with her shift, she’s welcomed to visit with residents.
“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 Daniel said she can already see a difference in her husband after four days. Steve Daniel had 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. He doesn’t get it,” she said. “How do we describe it to them when we don’t really understand what’s going on?”
The COVID-19 pandemic isolated those in long-term care facilities. Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the ban on visitors another two months on top of the past four, but Mary Daniels thinks 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.”
The window visits weren’t enough. The pair have been married 24 years.
Many people asked Mary Daniel why doesn’t she bring her husband Steve home.
“I can bring him home but he’s back to being locked inside of a house,” she said. “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. And it’s a really difficult decision.”
Now that she 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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