Florida Woman Takes Dishwashing Job to See Husband in Nursing Home After 114 Days Apart Due to COVID-19

When the coronavirus pandemic affected the U.S., nursing homes had barred visitors to protect patients

Mary Daniel
Photo: Rosecastle at Deerwood

After 114 days apart, Mary Daniel was looking for any way to visit her husband in his nursing home while it was closed to visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic. When a dishwashing job at the nursing home became available, the 57-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, jumped at the opportunity.

Her husband of 24 years, Steve, has early-onset Alzheimer's disease and has resided in a memory care unit of a nursing home, Rosecastle at Deerwood, for nearly a year. Daniel had visited him almost every evening, she told Today.

Everything changed, however, when the coronavirus pandemic heavily affected the U.S. in March and Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting visitation to nursing homes in Florida.

"I went to see him every single night, got him ready for bed," Daniel told the outlet. "I went in on March 10 and on March 11, they called and said, 'You can’t come back.' "

After trying to see Steve, 66, through a window, Daniel got the idea to volunteer or get a job at the nursing home. At first, she didn’t have much luck.

RELATED VIDEO: Father and Son Reunite with Family After Seven Weeks in Hospital for Cancer Treatment

"Then, out of the blue two weeks ago, they called and said, 'Do you want a job?' When I found out it was as a dishwasher, I thought, 'Well, okay! I guess I'm a dishwasher now,' " she said. "I had to have a background check, a drug test, a COVID test, 20 hours of video training on everything, including infectious diseases. It was 100 percent legit."

“The last thing I want is to be reckless and bring it in there," Daniel added. "I’ve been tested three times. I’m not going places I don’t need to go. If I have to go to the grocery store, I’m social distancing."

Now, Daniel works as a dishwasher for 90-minute shifts on Thursdays and Fridays, and is able to see her husband Steve, she told The Palm Beach Post. At first, she was worried about him not recognizing her, but Steve cried and was able to call her by name when he saw her.

“When the world is crazy, just to have an hour to sit with him, and talk with him. He’ll lay his head on my shoulder,” Daniel said. “There’s something that comes with that comfort of just being together.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

Related Articles