VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – A photograph of a crying elderly Canadian couple in wheelchairs, separated into two different care homes after 62 years of marriage because no beds were available together, has received international attention.
Wolfram Gottschalk, 83, of Surrey, British Columbia was put in an assisted living home in January after he suffered dementia health complications making it impossible for wife Anita, 81, to care for him at home. Four months later, Anita entered a different facility despite family efforts to keep them together.
The facilities are half an hour apart, with family driving Anita to see Wolfram several times a week.
Granddaughter Ashley Bartyik took “the saddest photo I have ever taken” when her grandparents were brought together recently. She notes that he reaches and cries out for her.
Wolfram was diagnosed with lymphoma Aug. 23. Now, the family is desperate for the couple to be together to live out their remaining days.
“I see desperation,” Bartyik said. “I see people married for 62 years pulled apart by a system. I see the love they have for each other.”
She took to social media to draw attention to the family’s plight and said the family had been working to find a care home to accommodate both grandparents. But the couple’s immediate health concerns led them to be put in separate facilities.
She said Anita is more aware of what is happening than her husband. She said her grandfather’s dementia is growing and the family is afraid Wolfram soon won’t remember Anita.
“With the news of cancer, our fight to have them in the same facility is even more urgent,” Bartyik said.
Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma said the authority tries to keep families together but that Wolfram’s care needs are higher than Anita’s. She said a facility must meet both patients’ needs, and the authority expects to complete that work in several weeks.