Saskatchewan

Couple reunited after years of being separated in long-term care

A Saskatchewan couple that was separated in long-term care has been reunited thanks to their daughter.

Theresa and James Kovach lived together for more than 50 years, before the health-care system separated them

Reunited again, Theresa and James Kovach have meals together at the Kipling Integrated Health Centre. (submitted by Sharon Kovach)

A Saskatchewan couple that was separated in long-term care has been reunited thanks to their daughter.

Theresa and James Kovach were forced to live apart after spending their entire lives together due to a system that often doesn't prioritize spouses. 

The couple was married for more than 50 years before they were separated due to James's declining health.

He was placed in a Regina long-term care home in 2015. Two years later, Theresa was placed in another, though it was their wish to live together.

"Trying to get them together was very difficult," said their daughter Sharon Kovach. "We had to go on a wait list and I talked about it with my dad's care home and there really wasn't much available."

In February, Nova Scotia passed a law where couples are placed together in long-term care, but the same law doesn't exist in Saskatchewan.

Theresa would visit James when she could, until she could no longer walk after a health scare involving seizures. 

She was also moved to a new long-term facility after the wing she lived in was closed, but again, she wasn't moved to live with her husband.

Renewed desire

A year ago, Sharon said, James expressed his desire to have Theresa living with him again. 

"He said to me, 'You know, I'm just waiting for this care home to build suites so your mom can move in with me.'" said Sharon.

She checked with the care home and there was no plan for that.

"He said, 'We would be in the same room ... then we could spend the rest of our time together.'"

Around the same time, her mother expressed the same desire, packing up items to make room if her husband was to arrive.

This renewed Sharon's determination to get them back together.

Suddenly one night

One night, she woke up suddenly and thought of Kipling, Sask., about 150 kilometres east of Regina. It's her dad's hometown, and where her grandmother lived in long-term care.

She said her dad was raised there and even moved back later in life, with Theresa, to help out his mother after his father died. Before that, the couple would visit every summer to help with the family farm. James (Jim) and Theresa were very involved in the community and would eventually like to be buried there.

So that morning, Sharon called Kipling's long-term care facility to ask if they are run by the Saskatchewan Health Authority and if her parents could be moved there. She says she explained how they wanted to be together.

To her surprise, the woman on the phone told her that they would get first priority to be put together in the care home after critical care patients.

Moving day

Sharon said beds were made available a few months later and hired the transportation-for-seniors company Driven with Care to help with the move in February.

Her mother moved to Kipling first after she was fully vaccinated. A week-and-a-half later, there was a bed for her father, too.

"He was all excited about it."

Sharon says they have been having meals together ever since their quarantine ended. 

Together again

"I actually looked up in the sky that day ... to my dad's mom. My grandma has passed away. I looked up at the sky and said 'Thank you for helping me, getting them together.'"

Sharon says they have rooms across the hall together in Kipling.

"They're happy. And when I talk to my mom ... her anxiety level on the phone is way less than it was before," said Sharon.

One Kipling resident has offered to take the reunited couple for a drive to their old church and the family farm once the pandemic ends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samanda Brace

Social Media Presenter

Samanda Brace is currently working as a Social Media Presenter for CBC Saskatchewan but will be returning to her role as a Current Affairs Associate Producer in July where she gathers stories mainly for the radio show The Morning Edition. She got her start at CBC in 2014 as an intern in the Regina newsroom. Get in touch with her by emailing samanda.brace@cbc.ca

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