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'Out of the blue!' Surprise phone call will allow wife in nursing home to see her husband for 1st time in 110 days

Mary Daniel's husband has Alzheimer's. A phone call out of the blue will enable her to go inside a memory care center and see him.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Mary Daniel is keeping track of the days since her husband's memory care center called her and said, "You can't come back in." It was an order from the governor for all nursing care centers in Florida: No visitors. 

It has now been 110 days.

So she's tried to comfort her husband, Steve. "We tried a window visit and he just cried," she says. With dementia, he can't understand why his wife comes up to his window, talks to him, and then just walks away to her car -- day after day.

"You can't explain it to him," Mary Daniel says. Meanwhile, she says her husband has lost 10 pounds. Medical experts say isolation can be toxic to dementia patients, when they're separated from family, often the only people they respond to.

Credit: Daniel

Daniel says she appreciates the staff at Rosecastle at Deerwood trying to keep up his spirits. But it doesn't make sense, she says, for staff to be able to put on PPE and go in and out daily. "I believe I could do that safely," Daniel says.

She says back in March she reached out to the center offering to bring in a therapy dog or come take a job on the inside -- anything to see her husband.

"I never heard back from them," she says. 

Then the surprise call.

"It came from corporate," she says. The company offered her a job as a dishwasher.

"I'm excited and grateful," she says, although she still worries about all the other families separated from their loved ones.

Credit: Daniel family

She will have to be tested for COVID-19, wear full PPE as rules require, and follow guidelines, just as any other employee would.

And she will be washing dishes. "I"m okay with that," she says.

Daniel says she cannot wait for the reunion with her husband. "I'll start crying. I think about this all the time," she says. "I'm so excited. I really am...I promised him I would always be with him."

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