72 days and counting: Jacksonville woman desperate to see husband who is fighting Alzheimer’s

Mary and Steve Daniel have been married 24 years but the past seven have been through the lens of the devastating rollercoaster of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the country moves to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the move is too slow for some.

Memory Care patients may be suffering from social isolation more than most people.

News4Jax has learned of one couple’s health struggles that have been compounded by the novel coronavirus.

A Jacksonville couple, Steve and Mary Daniel, have been together for decades and have a love for each other that’s transparent.

“The love that we have for each other right now is greater than it’s ever been,” said Mary Daniel. “And it’s instinctual, it’s really instinctual. I can feel it from him. He doesn’t understand, he just feels the love."

Mary and Steve have been married 24 years but the past seven have been through the lens of the devastating rollercoaster of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Mary and Steve shot a video for an Alzheimer’s researcher two days before the lockdowns across the country.

“I saw Steve that night. I saw him the next night, and on Thursday they called me and said you can’t come back. That was March 11 that was 72 days ago, but who’s counting,” she said.

Mary is clearly counting and she admits she is willing to do whatever it takes to be with her husband again.

The most recent guidance in the state says there could be 60 more days without access.

A person with dementia like Steve can’t understand the virus, the lockdown, or the loss of his best friend.

Even more tragic, Mary’s difficult decision to move Steve to a memory care facility full time was to keep him in social settings and keep his mind active.

There’s no recovering from Alzheimer’s disease and the lost time with a loved one.

“I have always known that this was going to kill him,” Mary Daniel said. “I know that. I realized that, but I also have always known that I would be with him. That I would be holding his hand that I would be beside him every step of the way. And that’s gone now.”

So what does Mary Daniel want? She’s open to anything that would allow her to connect while there’s still time.

“I want to see him desperately. He needs to see me desperately. And I’m just speaking for thousands of other people who are in the same exact situation that I am,” she said.

The Alzheimer’s Association issued policy recommendations this week for Florida.

Among their requests, “require nursing homes and assisted living communities to address social isolation and ensure people with dementia are able to communicate with designated family/friends.”

Mary Daniel said the two have tried video calls but she said it’s too confusing for Steve and they both end up crying.

She said she considers it an honor to care for Steve and be there with him to the very end.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.