Elderly couple forced to live apart back together in same care facility
An elderly couple that made headlines around the world when they were forced to live in separate care homes has been reunited.
Wolfram and Anita Gottschalk shared a kiss and a few tears Thursday afternoon as Wolf, 83, moved into his new room at The Residence at Morgan Heights, the Surrey facility where Anita, 81, is living. While they will sleep in separate rooms because of differing care needs, the couple is overjoyed to be under the same roof again, said their granddaughter Ashley Bartyik.
In August, Bartyik posted a photograph on Facebook titled “The saddest photo I have ever taken.” It showed her grandparents, who have been married 62 years, wiping away tears during a visit. Bartyik said the couple had been forced by “backlogs and delays” to live apart for eight months and cried each time they saw each other.
On Friday, Bartyik updated her Facebook page to thank Fraser Health for reuniting her grandparents in the same care home.
“The reunion saw tears of joy for all involved,” she wrote.
Wolf, whose dementia has worsened in recent weeks, looked happy as Anita touched his face and told him she was so excited to have him there. The couple will be able to see each other whenever they want, and can share meals together.
“She can tuck him in at night,” said Bartyik.
The couple received “no special treatment,” said their granddaughter, who was pleased her Facebook post brought attention to an issue that impacts families around the world.
“We wanted to shine a light on this, to show how important it is for health authorities to communicate and keep families in the loop,” she said.
Bartyik was recently a speaker at a B.C. care providers conference.
Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma confirmed the Gottschalks are now living in the same care home. She said the health authority had reunited 100 couples in the last 18 months. Two additional couples are awaiting reunification.
“Bringing couples together in care is very important to us,” Juma said, adding the Gottschalks’ situation was complicated because the couple needed different levels of care and were specific about where they’d like to live.
Juma said Fraser Health has improved its communication with families since the summer’s media storm.
“We’ve learned that we need better communication with families about how the process works,” she said.