Duval County

Local woman’s effort to allow caregivers into assisted living facilities prompts Florida legislation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mary Daniel took a job as a dishwasher last summer at her husband’s memory care facility just so she could be with him during the pandemic.

”I promised him on the day that they told us that he had Alzheimer’s, I promised him on that day that I would never leave him alone,” she said.

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Since then, Daniel hasn’t stopped pushing for change.

”It’s really, really hard on a caregiver to have to watch their loved one die through a window,” Daniel explained.

She founded Caregivers for Compromise, a nationwide coalition of more than 14,000 people barred from visiting their loved ones in facilities during the pandemic.

”What we found during those months that we were not allowed in, that many gave up the will to live,” she said. ”The isolation was so harmful to them, not being with their loved ones.”

Daniel’s efforts even caught the attention of Governor Ron DeSantis, who appointed her to a task force fighting to safely reopen long-term care facilities. Now, she’s pushing for legislation that would do just that.

House Bill 987 was filed in Florida’s legislature Monday, giving hope to people like Daniel.

”That’s what we’re trying to work on now. Legislation that allows that same essential caregiver designation to be permanent,” she said.

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The bill would give assisted living facilities and nursing homes the right to approve essential caregivers like Daniel for in-person visits. It would allow caregivers into facilities for a minimum of two hours a day, Daniel explained. The caregivers would follow the same safety protocols that staff follow, she added.

Daniel is optimistic that the governor will support the bill.

House Bill 987 has yet to be passed — Florida lawmakers will vote on it in the new year.