Florida Woman Takes Job As Dishwasher In Nursing Home To Visit Husband After 114 Days Apart

by Kristine Cannon
Originally Published: 
Florida woman dishwasher nursing home
First Coast News

Mary and Steve spent over 100 days visiting each other through the window of his nursing home — but those days are over

“I’m going to give you a hug real soon,” Mary Daniel told her husband, Steve, through the window of the nursing home he’s staying at.

And Mary kept her promise.

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After 114 days apart, the 57-year-old Jacksonville, Florida resident found a way to see her husband of 24 years in the nursing home that allowed no visitors: by snagging a job as a dishwasher there.

“I appreciate the opportunity,” Mary told ABC8/WFAA, adding that after reaching out to the nursing home, Rosecastle at Deerwood, to inquire about any volunteer or job opportunities they may have available, they told her to “wait to see what happens.”

After her stories aired on First Coast News, the corporate office eventually returned her call.

“Then, out of the blue two weeks ago, they called and said, ‘Do you want a job?’ When I found out it was as a dishwasher, I thought, ‘Well, okay! I guess I’m a dishwasher now,'” Mary told Today.

“[Steve] was teary-eyed,” she said of the reunion. “He touched my face, even with my mask on.”

Rosecastle banned visitors in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I went to see him every single night, got him ready for bed,” Mary recalled. “I went in on March 10 and on March 11 they called and said, ‘You can’t come back.'”

Since, Rosecastle has had zero cases of COVID-19. And according to Today, Mary has taken several COVID-19 tests, and they all came back negative. She also underwent strict training before starting work at the nursing home. Mary now works 90-minute shifts two days a week; and once she completes each shift, she spends her evenings with Steve, helping him get out of his clothes and get ready for bed.

“The last thing I want is to be reckless and bring it in there,” she said. “I’ve been tested three times. I’m not going places I don’t need to go. If I have to go to the grocery store, I’m social distancing.”

Rosecastle at Deerwood is a small nursing home with only 50 residents. Mary’s also been considered part of the Deerwood family, well before she started working there.

“Mary has been a part of our Deerwood family since her husband, Steve, moved into our community, but we are proud to welcome her onto our team,” Kelley Withrow, executive director for Rosecastle at Deerwood, said in a statement.

“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,” Withrow continued. “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.”

In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new executive order adding another 60 days to the ban on visitors to nursing homes, Mary created a Facebook group called “Caregivers for Compromise because isolation kills too!” Her goal is persuade DeSantis that safe visits are possible and to educate him on the impact isolation from family members has on nursing home residents.

“Our No. 1 goal is to get communication with the governor,” Mary said. “We are asking for a contact. Just simple guidelines. What do we need to get there?”

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