Until mid-March, Mary Daniel visited her husband, Steve, every day at his assisted living facility outside Jacksonville, Florida. The daily trek had to stop once visitations were no longer allowed due to COVID-19. It came at a time when every moment counts for the couple.
"I'd rather have these days where it matters most -- right now, today -- than a year from now, because I don't know what that year from now is going to be like," Daniel said.
Daniel's 66-year-old husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and has been living at the Rosecastle Assisted Living and Memory Care since last July.
"I'd go see him every night," Daniel said. "We'd settle in and watch television. It was just a peaceful way to end every day. As he was dozing off to sleep I would leave and comeback the next day… they called me on March 11 and said, 'You can't come back.'"
COVID-19 kept the two apart for 114 days. They would try window visits and FaceTime calls, but it simply didn't cut it for the married pair of 24 years. When a job washing dishes opened up at the facility, Daniel jumped at the opportunity.
"I want to be the best dishwasher you've ever had because this is legit," Daniel said. "This is real."
Daniel, 57, got to work scrubbing dishes, mopping floors and polishing silverware just like any other employee in the kitchen. July 1 was her first day on the job, reuniting husband and wife at last after months of separation.
"When I saw him for the first time, he said 'Mary,' and started crying," Daniel said. "I was crying. It was just amazing, I'm back with him and I'm not too late."
Daniel also created a Facebook group to support families struggling to connect with loved ones inside nursing homes, she said.