Wolfram Gottschalk, 83, and his wife Anita, 81 of Surrey, British Colombia have been married 62 years, but for the past eight months they’ve had to live apart.
The elderly couple have been forced to live in different aged care homes because they were unable to find out that would admit both of them. The separation has been a heartbreaking time for the couple and their entire family.
“This is the saddest photo I have ever taken,” the couple’s granddaughter Ashley Bartyik wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday accompanying a photo of her grandparents wiping away tears as they prepare to say goodbye to each other. “This is my Omi and my Opi. As you can see they are both wiping away tears! But why?”.
For the last eight months, Wolf has been on the waiting list to move into the nursing home where his wife lives. But because of what Bartyik calls, “backlogs and delays by our health care system,” no one can tell them when this might happen. A wait made all the more agonising by the fact that Wolf is suffering from dementia.
The family does what it can. Bartyik says she or someone else in her family make the 30-minute drive with Anita to see Wolf every other day. But on Tuesday, things got even worse.
“They cry every time they see each other, and it is heartbreaking. To make it worse, today he was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Besides that limiting his time and making this more urgent, his dementia is growing ever stronger each day, but his memory of my grandmother has not faded a inch…yet. We are afraid however that if they are living apart much longer, his memory of her won’t stay,” Bartyik says in the Facebook post.
She says the family has contacted everyone they can, from local legislators, their local health authority, Fraser Health, to personal inquiries, but they have still not had their questions and concerns addressed.
“We want justice for my grandparents who after 62 years together deserve to spend their last moments in the same building,” she writes.
Bartyik’s post struck a chord with people on Facebook. Her post has been shared over 3,000 times and it seems the media attention is at least shining a light on her grandparents plight.
She told CTV News that she has received close to 200 private messages from strangers thanking her for speaking up and offering tips and suggestions for working the system.
“I wanted the world to see what we see every two days when we bring my grandmother to see my grandfather – the raw emotion, the sadness, the anger,” she said to CTV.
According to Fraser Health, the issue lies in the fact that Wolf needs so much more care than Anita. But they maintain they’re doing all they can.
“We certainly understand how heartbreaking this is for the family. It’s upsetting for us as well,” Tasleem Juma, a spokeswoman for Fraser Health, the local healthy authority, told CTV News. “We continue to work to reunite this couple and hope to do so in the next few weeks.”
But as of today, Bartyik says her family has not received any information from Juma or anyone at Fraser.
So, unfortunately for now the wait continues for Wolf and Anita.
You can read Bartyik’s full post below: