Governor DeSantis hosts roundtable discussing how to let visitors safely inside assisted living facilities

Mary Daniel has been advocating for herself and others with loved ones in long-term care facilities. 

She’s been very vocal, making headlines around the country for the lengths she went to to see her husband. 

“I just want to make something really clear. I’m looking for a real hug, I’m not looking for a virtual hug,” Daniel said at the roundtable meeting. 

“Our goal is to get to our loved one.  They need a hug from us, not a picture of me on FaceTime, not me at the window.  They need us.”

Mary’s husband suffers from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 

She said that her husband is not capable of grasping why she stopped visiting and why he’d only see her on FaceTime or through a window. 

“I don’t want anybody to be misunderstood on why I’m here.  My goal is to safely and as quickly as possible with the right guidelines get us back to our families,” Daniel said. 

The separation was so difficult on Mary and her husband that she got creative. 

She took on a part-time job as a dishwasher at his Jacksonville-area memory care unit two days a week just so she could see him. 

“That hug, the first day I was there he turned around and said, 'Mary.'  I knew he still remembered me and he put his arms out for us to hug. You can’t get that through a window. That’s what we’re looking for,” Daniel said. 

For several months now, she’s been advocating for hundreds of thousands of other caregivers to be able to find ways to safely see their loved ones without having to find loopholes. 

Casey DeSantis, the Governor’s wife, let it be known that she’s moved by Daniel’s actions. 

“You serve as an inspiration to so many people across the state because you found a way in uncertain times to have some certainty. You were able to realize that these are precious moments you can share with your husband because you say he recognizes you still and you want to hang onto that as long as possible, so to be with him is so important,” Casey DeSantis said.

Since Mary is a paid employee of the nursing home, she has to get regular COVID-19 tests and is required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

The governor expressed interest in seeing if it would be possible to get other frequent visitors of loved ones rapid tests to make sure they’re free of the virus, then wearing PPE to be able to see their family member. 

A new committee will look into how to safely get visitors into long-term care facilities.