Members of a New Brunswick family say they're being unnecessarily ripped apart days before Christmas.

Herbert Goodine, 91, was removed Monday from the special-care home where he has lived with Audrey Goodine, 89, his wife of 69 years.

The move a week before Christmas follows an assessment by the Department of Social Development, which determined Goodine needed more care than the home he was living in could provide. 

Goodine's daughter, Dianne Phillips, said she's outraged her parents were separated after only a few days' notice and just before the holidays. 

Herbert Goodine

Herbert Goodine, 91, hugs his daughter, Dianne Phillips, in his new room away from his wife, Audrey Goodine. He will spend the days leading up to Christmas separated from his wife of 69 years because a recent health assessment determined he needed a higher level of care. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"And at this time of year, the way things took place, I feel that is abuse to seniors," said Phillips. "It's emotional abuse. It might not be physical, but I do believe it is emotional." 

Phillips said her father's dementia has been getting worse and he has broken some of the home's rules, including turning off a door alarm to step outside to retrieve his wife's Christmas ornamental plant. 

But she said her request to keep her parents together for five more days leading up to Christmas was denied by the Department of Social Development. 

The Goodines' story went viral over the weekend even before they were separated, after Phillips posted on Facebook her feelings about learning her father would be moved.

Dianne Phillips

Phillips says she requested a delay of five days before moving her father, but was turned down. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson said the Department of Social Development was aware of the situation and the family's concerns, but couldn't comment on the details of this case. 

"If it's determined that a senior needs additional care or that their safety is potentially in jeopardy, the department works with the resident and family members to facilitate a move to an appropriate home," wrote Anne Mooers.

"Individuals who require a higher level of care than what can be provided in special care homes are moved to where their needs can be more appropriately met, such as in a nursing home or a memory care home." 

Herbert and Audrey Goodine shared a room at the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover.

"Well, we had a beautiful room, two rooms, really," said Herbert Goodine from the sparse quarters he was moved into on Monday morning. 

The former farmer from Tilley shed a tear hugging his daughter after the relocation, but he tried to keep a sense of of humour when asked about his wife. 

"Well, if nothing happens to her, it'll be good," he said, "because she'll be rid of me for a little while."

Phillips said social workers assessed her father last week and decided he needed more care than was offered at Victoria Villa.

Jennifer Eagan

Jennifer Eagan, the owner and operator of the Victoria Villa Special Care Home, says although the timing is unfortunate in the Goodines' case, the law is clear that a move is necessary when greater care is needed. The safety of the patient is always the chief concern, she said. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

He is now at the Tobique Valley Manor in Plaster Rock, a 30-minute drive from his wife.  

Phillips said her father will stay there for the next 30 days until the family can find a new permanent living arrangement for both her parents.

'You don't know how close we are. And always was.' -  Herbert Goodine, husband of Audrey Goodine

"They won't be in the same bed tonight," Phillips said. "And that is because my dad did have an assessment done. He needs a higher level of care, which certainly we accept that, and we had hoped to keep them together until Christmas, but that didn't happen." 

Jennifer Eagan, the owner and operator of Herbert Goodine's former home, said the decision to move a resident is always done with the safety of the resident in mind, as well as according to provincial laws.

"I know that when someone is reassessed at a higher level, legally I have to comply with the rules and regulations of Social Development and the government of New Brunswick.

"It doesn't matter what time of year it is. It's the way it happened this time, which I agree is unfortunate. It's right before Christmas." 

After decision, fast action

Eagan said the time between the heightened new assessment and the required move is almost always just a few days.

"It normally doesn't take very long because once a resident is beyond our care we're not equipped to look after them.  

"So, it becomes a big safety concern for that resident."

Victoria Villa Special Care Home

Herbert Goodine lived at the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover before he was moved to Plaster Rock. The family hopes to find new living arrangements for him and his wife, Audrey. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Despite being separated in the days leading up to Christmas, the Goodines will spend Christmas Day together at their daughter's home in Fredericton. 

Herbert, who has never spent more than a few days apart from his wife in seven decades, is already looking forward to their reunion. 

"You don't know how close we are," he said. "And always was."

Facebook post widely shared

Phillips's weekend Facebook post had gathered more than 11,000 shares as of early Monday evening and provoked anger from readers.

Eagan said her special-care home has a good reputation for taking care of residents, so the online reaction has been rough.

"I would hope that anyone passing judgment on any home, in any situation, would get all their facts straight before spewing information," she said.