Before COVID-19 hit, Mary Daniel of Jacksonville, Florida, visited her husband, Steve, every day at Rosecastle at Deerwood, a memory care facility where he is a resident.
But months into the state's lockdown prohibiting their visits, Mary noticed Steve's health was declining due to his isolation. So, because the facility could not allow visitors, Mary came up with a work-around: She's now employed there.
What are the details?
Mary explained to WFLA-TV that she went 114 days without seeing Steve because of the lockdown.
"We did two window visits but they're incredibly difficult," she told the outlet. "He cried at both of them, and so it was a difficult decision that I really made that this wasn't in his best interest."
Steve has early onset Alzheimer's, and Mary became concerned about the toll that isolation was taking on his health since they couldn't see one another. The couple have been married for 24 years.
"He's been isolated," Mary said. "So this has been really, really difficult for him. He's lost 10 pounds over these last four months. I've really seen him sort of wither away."
Looking for a solution, Mary asked the care facility if any volunteer positions were available. A few weeks later, the facility called and offered her a job as a dishwasher.
"I told them, 'I'm gonna be the best dishwasher you've ever had, because I want to be here, because I need to be with him,'" she recalled to CNN.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Rosecastle at Deerwood welcomed Mary to the team.
"Mary has been a part of our Deerwood family since her husband, Steve, moved into our community. But we are proud to welcome her to our team," executive director Kelley Withrow wrote.
"Visitor restrictions have been put in place at communities across our state as a safety measure, aimed at protecting the vulnerable population we serve," Withrow added. "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."
WFLA reported that Mary has also launched a Facebook group called "Caregivers for Compromise — because isolation kills too," aimed at building a coalition of families to press Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to "allow safe visitation" at care facilities.
"We can't give up," Mary said. "We can't, we just absolutely can't. We have to fight for them until our last breath or their last breath. And I think we can be successful. I think when Gov. DeSantis, when he sees us and sees our stories, I think he's a good man. I think he'll do what he possibly can to help us and to help our family members."