Elderly Nova Scotia couple reunited in same nursing home following appeal

After spending nine months apart, Edwin and Marjorie Crossland were reunited in the same nursing home. The Nova Scotia Health Authority previously evaluated them for different levels of care.

Granddaughter fought decision that prevented Edwin Crossland, 91, from joining his wife in nursing home

Edwin and Marjorie Crossland were separated after 70 years when Edwin, 91, was assessed as not needing the same type of nursing home care as his wife, who suffers from dementia. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

An Annapolis Valley couple in their 90s who were forced to live apart after what their family called "a deeply flawed" assessment from the Nova Scotia Health Authority have been reunited in the same nursing home.

Edwin and Marjorie Crossland lived together in their own house for more than 70 years, but were separated last fall after their health took a turn for the worse.

Edwin ended up in the hospital, so Marjorie, who has dementia, was placed in the Orchard Court nursing home in Kentville, N.S., which provides the highest level of care.

But a continuing-care assessment done at the hospital where Edwin was staying deemed him too healthy to live in a similar facility on his release. Instead, he ended up being bounced between residential facilities and the hospital.

The couple's granddaughter Tammy Crossland, who works in nursing home care herself, fought the health authority's decision, arguing that her grandfather met all the criteria to live in a nursing home.

Edwin Crossland, 91, was sent to hospital in September for complex health issues, including complications with diabetes and problems dressing and standing. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

After Edwin suffered multiple falls in the residential facility, Tammy became concerned about his wellbeing and safety and brought him home to live with her.

The family continued their requests for Edwin to receive nursing home care and filed a formal appeal. A re-evaluation was finally ordered in March.

Tammy says the health authority informed her March 23 that Edwin did, in fact, meet the requirements necessary to receive a spot in a nursing home.

He was placed on a priority waiting list and moved into the same nursing home as his wife this week.

Tammy says her grandfather was emotional when he was brought to his own room on Wednesday, just down the hall from his wife.

"He was a little teary because he is emotional," she said. "He went to his room, and was shown around. [Then] he went right to Nan's room and spent the whole day with her.

"Right now he's just so happy to be there with her. He's doting on her."

Health authority stands behind decision

Tammy said a representative for the health authority told her they stood behind the original assessment that was done on Edwin in the fall.

"[He told me] although he was standing by the hospital's decision, they were able to see that my grandfather had declined greatly since he had left the hospital and needed long-term care nursing home," Tammy said.

But Tammy said she doesn't believe that's what happened.

"I said, 'With all due respect and I don't want to argue, but my grandfather has not declined since he's been in my house. Maybe mentally and emotionally, but not physically,'" she said.

Marjorie and Edwin Crossland sit together in Edwin's new bedroom at Orchard Court in Kentville, N.S. Edwin moved into the same nursing home as his wife on Wednesday after a long fight with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

Tammy says since her grandfather ended up in hospital in September, he fell multiple times and had difficulty washing and dressing himself.

"From a nursing point of view, it does not make sense to me. I don't know if there was miscommunication between the nurses. I don't feel like they actually went in and did a full assessment on him. I don't know how they watched him wash and dress himself."

'It felt like a fight'

Tammy said she hopes the health authority takes a closer look at how hospitals evaluate people for nursing home care.

"It was very unfair. This could have been dealt with. They could have been sent to the nursing home together [in November]," she said.

"It felt like a fight."

The couple have dinner together at the nursing home. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

In a written statement, Susan Stevens, senior director of continuing care with the health authority, defended the assessment process.

"Most of the people we work with are frail and elderly and their situations change, sometimes quickly. Our goal, always, is to reunite couples as quickly as possible though sometimes this can take time when they require different levels of care," she said.

"Our care co-ordinators are experienced licensed health care professionals who complete a comprehensive assessment of the individual, his/her environment, family supports and other factors important in matching his/her needs with the supports and services we offer."

Tammy told CBC News her grandparents will have to spend time getting used to living close to each other again, as her grandmother's dementia has gotten worse since she was separated from her husband.

"It's very emotional," Tammy said.

"I hope the remainder of their years are as comfortable as possible, and together."

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg

Journalist

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Halifax. She previously worked for CBC Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von. stackelberg@cbc.ca