Social distancing and quarantining has thrown us all for a loop and disrupted our normal patterns of behavior, but for some, it has been more than a mere inconvenience.
For some, it’s led to deep heartbreak.
Mary and Steve Daniel have been married for 24 years and live in Jacksonville, Florida. When Steve, 66, started to show signs of early onset Alzheimer’s, Mary knew something was wrong.
After much consideration, Daniel went to live at Rosecastle at Deerwood, a small assisted living community that gives Daniel the socialization he craves and the help he needs.
Mary would visit him just about every day to take care of his nighttime routines, and it was a lovely way to still spend time together.
But that all changed on March 11.
“I went to see him every single night, got him ready for bed,” she told NBC’s “Today.”
“I went in on March 10 and on March 11 they called and said, ‘You can’t come back.'”
At first, Mary tried to visit Steve through a window, but that only confused and saddened him. Days passed, and she reached out to see if she could volunteer or do something at Rosewood that would allow her to still see her husband.
“They said, ‘Let’s wait to see what happens,'” she recalled. “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, OK! I guess I’m a dishwasher now.'”
The dream gig pays $9 an hour, and Mary works twice a week for an hour and a half.
“I had to have a background check, a drug test, a COVID test, 20 hours of video training on everything, including infectious diseases,” she explained. “It was 100 percent legit.”
It took 114 days, nearly four months, for Mary to be back by her husband’s side — but even then, there was no guarantee he’d actually recognize her.
Thankfully, when she finally got to see him after her first shift, he seemed to recognize her, as he used her name and his eyes welled up with tears.
While many would just be frustrated by such a shutdown, Mary says she gets it — but she also wants people to consider that their ill loved ones might be just as at risk of dying if they don’t interact with their friends and families.
“I absolutely understand why they did the shutdown, that the intentions are certainly well-intended,” she told the Palm Beach Post. “I can’t fault the governor for what he wants to do. The trouble is, he’s isolating them to save their lives, and the isolation is killing them.”
She’s taking all the steps she can to protect herself, her husband and the other residents by limiting her trips to essential, socially distanced errands.
Her presence has actually been a boon, as the staff has struggled to cover the duties that visiting family members generally performed.
“Mary has been a part of our Deerwood family since her husband, Steve, moved into our community, but we are proud to welcome her onto our team,” Kelley Withrow, Rosecastle’s executive director, told “Today.”
“Visitor restrictions have been put in place at communities across our state as a safety measure, aimed at protecting the vulnerable population we serve. But it has been hard on families and residents alike, so we felt creative solutions were necessary, especially in the case of Mary and Steve. We are happy to report that Mary is off to a great start in her new role, and we are excited to see the positive changes in Steve’s demeanor as well.”
For Mary, the work has been worth it.
“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,” she told the Post. “There’s something that comes with that comfort of just being together.”
“This allows me to be back doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she added. “He’s not going to walk this journey alone.”
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