Florida woman takes job as dishwasher at nursing home to be near husband with Alzheimer’s

Florida woman takes job as dishwasher at nursing home to be near husband with Alzheimer’s
FILE PHOTO: A Florida woman took a job as a dishwasher at a nursing home so she could spend time with her husband who has Alzheimer's. (Free-Images.com/Free-Images.com)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Florida woman took a job as a dishwasher at a nursing home so she could spend time with her husband who has Alzheimer's.

Mary Daniel was by her husband Steve's side daily, helping tuck him in at night and watching TV with him -- until coronavirus restrictions prohibited her from visits to his nursing home, Rosecastle at Deerwood.

The couple went an excruciating 114 days without seeing each other until Daniel got a call from the nursing home offering her a job as a dishwasher, CBS News reported.

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"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 told CNN.

In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an emergency order prohibiting visitors to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities with certain exceptions. The order was renewed for another 60 days last week.  

The couple's time apart was stressful, maybe more so on Steve Daniel. His behavior changed over that time, Mary Daniel said. He got into a fight with another resident, something he had never done. 

"We have separated these folks to save them, but we have separated them and it's going to kill them. The isolation will absolutely kill them," Daniel told CBS News. "Especially dementia patients, they need interaction. They need to be touched, their brain needs to be stimulated so that they can grow instead of just really wither away."

Mary started working July 3. Steve knew it was her, even while she wore a mask.

"I walked into his room and he said my name, he said Mary, which was also a relief," she said. "So when he said, Mary, and gave me the biggest hug, I mean, we both cried."

The new job also seems to have helped Steve relax. 

“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,” Kelley Withrow, who runs the nursing home, said in a statement, CNN reported. “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.”