Surrey family fighting for grandparents to be placed in same care facility

Click to play video 'Separated Surrey seniors will be moved closer together' Separated Surrey seniors will be moved closer together
A Surrey couple, who are separated in different care homes, are closer to being back together, after a photo of them crying as they visited each other went viral. John Daly reports.

UPDATE:  The family has met with Fraser Health and has been given a temporary solution that will help the elderly couple see each other more often.  Wolfram is being moved to  Rosemary Heights Seniors Village which is only five minutes away from Anita’s current residence.   Fraser Health also told the family the two are the number one priority for reunification as soon as space is available.  The couple’s granddaughter told Global News she is hopeful Fraser Health is able to figure out a way to make it work; she was told there are 10 other couples in the system waiting to be reunited. 

Previous story: Ashley Bartyik says every time her grandparents see each other lately, they cry.

They have been married for 62 years but have been forced to live separately for the past eight months because they have been placed in different care facilities.

“I’ve never seen my grandfather cry and he cries every time he sees her,” said Bartyik.

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Her grandmother, Anita Gottschalk, 81, has been living at The Residence at Morgan Heights, while her grandfather, Wolfram, 83, has been living at Yale Road Centre.

Every two days, Bartyik’s mother takes Anita to see Wolfram but his health is failing fast and the family is concerned they don’t have much time left together. He has dementia and on Tuesday he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“He went into the hospital in early January and he just never came home,” said Bartyik.

She said Anita’s care home, The Residence, has been great and they want Wolfram to be moved there. While it has now been approved he can be moved to the same facility, he has been placed on a wait list and the family is still waiting for answers from Fraser Health.

“He’s been on an emergency list but nothing’s happened,” said Bartyik.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

Bartyik wrote about the situation and posted it to her Facebook page. It has now been shared more than 3,000 times.

WATCH: There has been an outpouring of support for the couple, with the story getting international attention:

Click to play video 'Outpouring of support for separated seniors' Outpouring of support for separated seniors
Outpouring of support for separated seniors

Bartyik just wants them to be able to live out their final days together.

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“His dementia is bad but he still remembers her, which is what we’re trying to hold on to,” she said. “We don’t know if you put a few more days in there if he’ll forget. Right now he calls her name out when he sees her, he’s so excited and has his moments of clarity when he sees her.”

Bartyik said they continue to call Fraser Health and inquire in person at Yale Road Centre as to when Wolfram can be moved, but she said most people don’t have access to the list with that information.

“There’s an access department but [Fraser Health] won’t let you phone there to talk to anyone,” she said. “He could be moved in a week, he could be moved in a month, we don’t know. But at this point we just want him to be in the same spot as her while he can.”

Bartyik said The Residence, which her grandmother loves, is the only option for her grandparents because her grandmother has already been given a place there and it’s the best place for them to be placed together.

The family is also facing a number of other health issues and this is putting a strain on them all.

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“It’s just a lot for our family,” said Bartyik.

In a statement to Global News, Tasleem Juma of Fraser Health said:

“One of the challenges with couple reunification is that they don’t necessarily need the same level of care at the same time. In this case, the husband’s care needs are considerably higher than his wife’s. He needs residential care while his wife needs assisted living care. This means we need to make sure the facility can accommodate both their needs.

“Also, when there is a preference for a particular community or facility, it significantly reduces our options for placement and can increase the wait for placement.

“We continue to work to reunite this couple and hope to do so in the next few weeks.”