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

By Ally Mauch
July 11, 2020 05:15 PM
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Credit: 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.

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"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.”

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