Another couple separated by health authority after decades of marriage
A second family has come forward with a story of elderly parents forced to live apart
Another B.C. family has come forward with a story about their elderly parents being separated after more than six decades of marriage.
Last weekend a heartbreaking photo of William and Anita Gottschalk, forced to live apart in Surrey after 62 years of marriage, made headlines around the world.
It's a familiar story to Don and Rebecca Sagert, whose parents were also placed in different facilities, after being married for more than 68 years.
"It really tugged at my heart strings so to speak," Don Sagert told CBC News.
The couple, Alfred, 95 and Emma, 87, were living together in an assisted living facility when Emma suffered several small strokes and was admitted to hospital. Afterwards, she was unable to return to live with her husband.
"We requested that she be transferred back to where he was living, but she was put in a very crowded, old facility with little to no privacy attached to the local hospital... Walking through the lobby didn't always feel safe as there was some kind of rehab day program on the first floor," said Rebecca Sagert.
During the separation the family tried to help the couple visit each other as much as possible.
"I would try and take my dad probably at least two times a week to go and see her because they just needed to be together."
The Sagerts pushed Fraser Health to reunite them, but Don said little was done to make that happen for two years.
"I was always under the impression that she was high priority and I came to understand that didn't mean much under the system," said Don
"This was a huge exercise in frustration, as the bed manager at Fraser Health was not helpful," said Rebecca.
The couple was finally reunited last spring but that process took a toll on his mother's health, Don said.
"Her health diminished just because I think she was sad and she was lonely... she just felt really lonely," said Don.
Reunification a priority says Fraser Health
Fraser Health officials said reunification is a priority but the case was complicated because the family preferred a certain facility.
"When there is a preference for a particular facility, as in this case, it significantly reduces our options for placement and can increase the wait for placement," said spokeswoman Tasleem Juma.
"The facility of their choice and where they are now living, only had five vacancies in a year."
Juma noted keeping couples together is an ongoing job for the regional health authority.
"Over the past 19 months, we have reunited 92 couples — that's 184 people that have been brought together," she said.
Meanwhile on Monday, in the case of the Gottschalks, Fraser Health said Wolfram had been moved to a care home closer to his wife Anita, and officials hope to have the couple reunited soon.