Nova Scotia

Couple married 70 years forced to live apart as husband rejected for nursing home care

Marjorie and Edwin Crossland's romance has endured 70 years but the couple are being forced to spend their remaining years apart because Edwin, 91, has been rejected for nursing home care.

Edwin Crossland is frail and has health problems but was deemed too robust to join his wife at nursing home

Tammy Crossland took her grandfather, Edwin, to Orchard Court to visit his wife, Marjorie, on Valentine's Day. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

An Annapolis Valley couple, married for nearly 70 years, is being forced to live out their remaining years apart due to what their family says is a deeply flawed medical assessment.

Marjorie Crossland, 90, has dementia and was placed at Orchard Court, a continuing care facility in Kentville, N.S., last fall. Up until September, the couple lived in their own home in nearby Berwick.

Orchard Court is also home to Marjorie's brother and it is where her granddaughter, Tammy Crossland, works as a licensed practical nurse.

The missing piece in the family unit is Marjorie's 91-year-old husband, Edwin Crossland, who, despite his frailty, advanced age and serious health problems, has been deemed too healthy to have a bed in the nursing home.

Instead, he was assessed for a residential facility, something Tammy says is unsuited to her grandfather's needs.

"He can't cook for himself, he has to have a walker, he can't stand unassisted. He's 91 years old and a diabetic. He can't be alone," she said.

Tammy said she understands the demands on the health-care system, particularly continuing care, "but I do think he qualifies to be in one of those beds. I really think he qualifies."

Tammy Crossland, a licensed practical nurse, says she can't understand why a continuing care assessor felt her 91-year-old grandfather is too robust to be in the same nursing home as his wife. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority could not comment on the Crosslands' case for privacy reasons.

"Our goal is to get people the care that they need when they need it," said Susan Stevens, senior director of continuing care with the health authority. "We are very thorough and careful when assessing an individual's situation.

"We don't want to see people separated. Unfortunately, sometimes the circumstances are such that that happens.

"When we have a family and they have a couple … we try as best we can to make sure they get together. It might not initially happen at first. There might be a bit of a lag time there. It depends, too, if they have different care needs, then that poses another challenge for us," she said.

More than 900 people are waiting for the highest level of care — nursing home beds — in Nova Scotia, according to Stevens.

Couples who want to live in the same residential facility are given higher priority on the wait-list. The health authority said there are dozens of couples who are waiting to live in the same facility.

Edwin Crossland holds his wife Marjorie during a visit. He says she is sad and bewildered by his absence. (Submitted by Tammy Crossland)

In September, Edwin was hospitalized for diabetes complications and in November, he was sent to a residential care facility. Early in December, he fell and lay on the floor all night until he was found by a worker. Edwin ended up back in hospital. His family doctor recommended nursing home care, but the health authority refused.

After his last hospital stay, Tammy brought Edwin home to live with her while the family appeals his assessment. They are hoping to have a decision within 30 days.

Meanwhile, her grandmother is suffering, Tammy said.

"She knows that she's missing him and asks about him all the time. [She] doesn't like to go to bed by herself … and she doesn't like to be alone."

Some days, Marjorie refuses to eat and won't come out of her room, Tammy said.

"He brought her flowers for Valentine's Day. She was really happy and she had a good day with him."

Edwin Crossland, 91, of Berwick, N.S., deeply misses his wife, Marjorie. The couple was separated when Edwin was deemed ineligible for a bed at the nursing home where his wife is residing. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Edwin cried when he spoke about his wife to CBC News.

"She likes me to be with her. And I like being with her. But for some reason, we can't. I don't know why. We would like to be together. But I don't know why we can't be."

Both husband and wife are now on medication to treat depression, Tammy said.

"I just think it's cruel to keep them apart and say he's not eligible for nursing home," she said. "I think they're the typical married couple.… He spoiled her rotten. He adores her."

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