JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – A Jacksonville woman is pushing to ensure every caregiver’s right to see their loved one – pandemic or not.
Mary Daniel is leading her fight in the Florida Legislative Assembly, which is entering the fourth week of the legislative session. At the same time, Daniel is also fighting for change at the federal level.
Daniel and her husband, Steve, have an incredible romance, in part due to tragedy. Her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at just 59 years old.
Now 68, he is in a long-term care facility that shut out Daniel and others when the pandemic hit the world in 2020.
“I would go visit him every night and get him ready for bed, and he would go to sleep, and that would be a great way for both of us to end our day, and we did that on March 11.” Daniel said. “And on March 12, they told us I couldn’t come back.”
That’s what started a memorable fight by Daniel. She got a job as a dishwasher at the facility so she could see her husband, then caught the attention of the Governor, then continued to charge change.
In the Florida House and Senate, “essential caregiver” bills are moving forward, led on the House side by Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville.
Daniel’s campaign includes a book for every lawmaker.
“And part of that is telling our story, wanting to tell people what this journey was like and what it was like for so many people who not only got separated and eventually came back, but for so many people who lost someone and had to literally watch them die through a window,” Daniel said.
Daniel calls it “complicated grief” and has produced books that offer real life or real death stories of people in long-term care.
“And we call it ‘save them to death’ because we certainly understand why the lockdowns were done with the best of intentions,” Daniel said. “We understand that COVID kills, but we also understand that isolation also kills. And so we tried to save them and a lot of them ended up dying of loneliness.
Daniel and others gave a book to every lawmaker in Tallahassee last week, 160 of them.
Daniel says the federal legislation is more advanced, but will only affect facilities covered by Medicare and Medicaid. State bills would affect private establishments, like her husband’s.
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