Can I get a job? Wife tries it all for nursing home reunion

Can I get a job? Wife tries it all for nursing home reunion

Can I get a job? Wife tries it all for nursing home reunion

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — One hundred and 14 days. That’s how long Mary Daniel went without seeing her husband after the coronavirus banned visitors from his nursing home, separating the couple for the first time since he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago.

When the Jacksonville nursing home locked down in March, Daniel didn’t think it would last long. The 57-year-old, who runs a medical billing company, promised Steve she would not leave his side after his life-altering diagnosis at the age of 59.

But the 66-year-old thrived at Rosecastle at Deerwood and became known as the mayor of the facility, sitting at the front desk and hugging every visitor and delivery person. They settled into a peaceful routine. Every night, Mary headed to the facility, changed Steven into his pyjamas and the two cuddled in bed and watched TV.

On March 11, she got a call from the home forbidding her from returning as nursing homes across the state went on lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading among its vulnerable patients.

Undaunted, she asked about taking a volunteer position. When that didn’t work, she offered to bring in the therapy dogs she raises for wounded veterans into the facility for the residents. Still, no.

“Can I get a job?” she asked with sincerity, marking each day apart from her husband with growing unease. “I’m throwing all these things out.”

She watched as people across the country found creative ways to connect with loved ones now locked away, but it’s different with dementia patients. Steve doesn’t complete sentences, so video chats were useless.

She tried two “window visits,” but Steve cried both times. He didn’t understand why she was so far away. It was torture and she vowed not to return until she could hold him. Dementia patients decline more quickly without human touch, she said.

She emailed the governor every day, along with anyone else who would listen as the days stretched into months. She joined a support group on Facebook, “Caregivers for Compromise Because Isolation Kills Too,” and has become an advocate.

“My husband is 5 miles away from me, but I can’t get to him,” she said. “It’s like he’s died, but it’s worse than him dying because he’s not at peace.”

Then out of the blue, the phone rang three weeks ago. It was the corporate office at Steve’s nursing home. They had an opening for a part-time dishwasher. Was she interested?

She jumped at the chance, and went through a drug test and 20 hours of video training on hazardous waste disposal and food safety, knowing Steve was on the other side.

Kelley Withrow, the facility’s executive director, stressed that the visitation ban is necessary but acknowledged it’s “been hard on families and residents alike, so we felt creative solutions were necessary, especially in the case of Mary and Steve.”

Now, twice a week Daniel finishes her office job, heads to the nursing home kitchen and scrubs dirty dishes for 90 minutes. She said she’s “doing everything in my power to get to my husband, because he needs me to touch him.”

She worries for the families still separated.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was considering loosening the state’s ban on visitations at nursing homes for loved ones who can take a rapid-response test for the virus before entering the facility.

“There’s a hopelessness; there’s a helplessness,” Daniel said. “Hundreds of thousands of people are feeling that right now. They’re dying alone, and it’s tragic. It’s bordering on cruelty at this point.”

___

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paul Harris, owner of Tribe restaurant downtown, said a lot of the blame for the latest restrictions that will close outdoor patios on Sunday can be blamed on those not obeying health regulations and the government for failing to enforce the rules.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Restaurant owners frustrated by patio shutdowns

Outdoor patios must stop serving by midnight Sunday to stem rising COVID infections

The City of Red Deer said Wednesday that some outdoor activity rentals will be available starting Monday for households only. (Advocate File Photo)
City of Red Deer outlines activities available as new provincial COVID-19 restrictions set in

There will be limited recreation activities available across the City of Red… Continue reading

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

‘Love, Oran’ is a documentary feature made by Red Deer-raised filmmaker Colin Scheyen. It’s about hidden letters, found in a Woodlea home after 70 years, revealing a family secret. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Hidden letters reveal secrets of Red Deer family in a new documentary film

‘Love, Oran,’ by filmmaker Colin Scheyen is showing at Edmonton’s NorthwestFest

Red Deer Rebels’ three graduating players, Josh Tarzwell (left), Chris Douglas (middle) and Ethan Anders (right) will all move on to new opportunities next season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
‘It was a rollercoaster’: Rebels’ graduating players look back on wild season

The nerves. Even three-and-a-half-years later, Josh Tarzwell still remembers the nervousness he… Continue reading

FILE - Broadway posters hang outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre during Covid-19 lockdown in New York on May 13, 2020. Many Broadway productions are scrambling to resume ticket sales to welcome theater-goers this fall after city and state leaders have green-lit a reopening of the Great White Way at full capacity. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Broadway theaters can reopen Sept. 14 and will be allowed to decide their own entry requirements. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Broadway readies imminent ticket sales for a fall reopening

Broadway readies imminent ticket sales for a fall reopening

This photo shows a love letter that John F. Kennedy wrote to a Swedish paramour a few years after he married Jacqueline Bouvier, according to Boston-based RR Auction. The auction house says Kennedy wrote letters to aristocrat Gunilla von Post in 1955 and 1956, and announced, Wednesday, May 5, 2021, that they will be going up for auction. (Nikki Brickett/ RR Auction via AP)
‘Anxious to see you:’ JFK letters to Swedish lover auctioned

‘Anxious to see you:’ JFK letters to Swedish lover auctioned

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. British Columbia is offering tangible recognition of the historical wrongs caused by the province when it interned thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force Al Meinzinger is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in his office at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Canada is inching closer to the purchase of armed drones for its military even as details around how the controversial weapons will be used are starting to come together. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canadian military laying groundwork for arrival of armed drones

Canadian military laying groundwork for arrival of armed drones

DND, Veterans Affairs workers say harassment complaints not taken seriously: unions

DND, Veterans Affairs workers say harassment complaints not taken seriously: unions

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Liz Cheney clings to GOP post as Trump endorses replacement

Liz Cheney clings to GOP post as Trump endorses replacement

Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, right, talks to his co-defendant Finnegan Lee Elder, before a jury began deliberating their fate as they are on trial for the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer on a street near the hotel where they were staying while on vacation in Rome in summer 2019, in Rome, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Rome jury convicts 2 US friends in slaying of police officer

Rome jury convicts 2 US friends in slaying of police officer

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they participate in a virtual discussion from Ottawa on Monday, May 3, 2021, with seniors from Residence Memphremagog in Magog, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal budget ‘overstates’ economic impact of stimulus spending, budget officer says

Federal budget ‘overstates’ economic impact of stimulus spending, budget officer says

Most Read