Sad seniors case difficult, but Fraser Health promises to reunite families

B.C.'s Fraser Health Authority is committed to reuniting families after the image of an elderly husband and wife who are forced to live apart caused outcry.

'It certainly speaks to the need for us to be more creative'

Wolfram and Anita Gottschalk were married 62 years ago and just want to be together said their granddaughter. (Ashley Bartyik/Facebook/CBC)

B.C.'s Fraser Health Authority is  committed to reuniting families after the image of an elderly husband and wife — Wolf and Anita Gottschalk — who are forced to live apart caused outcry.

Ashley Bartyik's 83-year-old grandfather and his wife of 62 years live in different care homes in Surrey B.C.

Ashley Bartyik snapped this photo of her grandparents as they met for a visit at a transition house for people waiting to get into nursing homes. The couple has been separated for eight months. (Facebook/Ashley Bartyik)

Every time they see each other, they cry — a moment Bartyik captured in a photo this week.

She posted the picture online, where it has been shared thousands of times and made headlines around the world, and she hopes it will draw attention to the shortage of publicly funded beds for seniors in B.C.

Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma said the health authority wants to reunite families, but the couple's is challenging because the husband's care needs are considerably higher than his wife's. 

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie is urging the provincial government to allow seniors more flexibility in choosing where they live in care. (CBC)

So far no solution has been offered for the pair in the photo that caught people's attention.

Senior care lacks creativity

Earlier this week B.C.'s advocate for seniors called on the provincial government to allow greater flexibility for seniors to choose how they want to live their final years.

Isobel MacKenzie was responding the image of Wolf Gottschalk and his wife Anita in tears during a visit at a transition house.

The couple have been living apart for eight months because Wolf is required to receive a higher level of care because of his dementia diagnosis, while Anita is living in assisted living at The Residence at Morgan Heights.

"I think it certainly speaks to the need for us to be more creative around how we are going to allow couples to live together that have different care needs," said Mackenzie on CBC Radio's B.C. Almanac.

"I just want to see them together," said the couple's granddaughter Ashley Bartyik. "They're a pillar of strength in our family." (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

With files from Canadian Press, Richard Zussman