Thursday 8 December 2016

'They cry every time they see each other' - Heartbroken elderly couple forced to live apart after 62 years of marriage

Chris Graham

Published 26/08/2016 | 08:51

Credit: Facebook/Ashley Bartyik
Credit: Facebook/Ashley Bartyik

Wolf and Anita Gottschalk had never lived apart during 62 years of marriage.

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But that all changed eight months ago when the local health authority in British Columbia was unable to accommodate them at the same care home.

Now, every time the elderly Canadian couple meet is just a temporary - and tearful - reunion.

"They cry every time they see each other, and it is heartbreaking," the couple's granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, said on Facebook, blaming the separation on "backlogs and delays by our healthcare system".

"My grandma can't even kiss him goodnight now. He calls out for her when he sees her."

Wolf, 83, is on a waiting list to join Anita, 81, in The Residence nursing home, which is currently a 30-minute drive away.

The Fraser Health Authority says it is working to reunite the couple and hopes "to do so in the next few weeks".

"We certainly understand how heartbreaking this is for the family. It's upsetting for us as well," Tasleem Juma, a spokeswoman for Fraser Health, told CTV News.

In the meantime, the couple see each other every other day when the family takes Anita to see her husband. 

Adding to the urgency of the situation, Wolf has been diagnosed with lymphoma and dementia.

"His dementia is growing ever stronger each day, but his memory of my grandmother has not faded a inch...yet," Ms Bartyik said.

"We are afraid, however, that if they are living apart much longer, his memory of her won't stay."

Despite the health authority's assurance that it is working to resolve the situation, Ms Bartyik was critical of its response. "We still have not received one single phone call from them in the past 8 months that this has been going on," she said. 

She has launched a Facebook appeal for help from the public in reuniting Wolf and Anita.

"We want justice for my grandparents who after 62 years together deserve to spend their last moments in the same building," Ms Bartyik said.

The couple's 59-year-old son, Bill Gottschalk, fears "something is going to happen because of this problem to them, emotionally".

"They need their time together," he told MailOnline. "If either one of them were to pass away while they're separated, it would be devastating for for them and the family. They need to be together, I worry about my mom all the time."

Telegraph.co.uk

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