Health Care Hurdles Are Separating This Couple, And That’s Infuriating

by Valerie Williams
Image via Facebook

A photo of an elderly couple crying as they say goodbye has gone viral

An incredibly moving photo of an elderly couple has gone viral, with their situation breaking hearts and igniting anger behind flaws in the health care system and how it affects real people.

Anita and Wolfram Gottschalk have been married for 62 years, but because of delays in the health care system, they’re currently living in separate nursing homes. And according to their granddaughter, it’s killing them.

Ashley Bartyik posted the now-viral photo of her grandparents on Facebook along with their story.

She writes, “This is the saddest photo I have ever taken. This is my Omi and my Opi. As you can see they are both wiping away tears! But why?”

Bartyik then explains the circumstances surrounding the couple’s living arrangements, all having to do with backlogs in the Canadian healthcare system. “After 62 years together in marriage they have been separated for 8 months due to backlogs and delays by our health care system, whom have the power to have my grandpa moved to the same care facility as my grandmother. They cry every time they see each other, and it is heartbreaking.”

She shares that Wolf was recently diagnosed with cancer, which makes reuniting the two even more urgent. Bartyik says his dementia is “growing ever stronger each day, but his memory of my grandmother has not faded an inch…yet.”

The family is afraid that if Wolf and Anita aren’t living together again soon, he could forget her. She says they’ve been transporting Anita to her husband’s care facility every other day for the last eight months so they can see each other, even if only briefly, but that the 30-minute commute each way is putting a strain on their family. Bartyik then asked her Facebook followers to share the post in hopes that they can get the help they need to bring their beloved grandparents back together.

It’s infuriating that bureaucracy is marring the last days a devoted couple have with each other. What it’s doing to their entire family is unfair, but the impact on Wolf and Anita is undoubtedly the worst part. A society is only as good as how it treats their most vulnerable citizens, so giving great care to seniors and looking after not just their health, but their hearts, should be of the utmost importance. It’s beyond sad that healthcare hurdles are stopping a loving couple from living out their final moments under the same roof.

Although their situation isn’t resolved yet, the photo did catch the attention of Fraser Health, the publicly-funded healthcare entity that represents the family’s region of British Columbia. There’s a system-wide shortage of publicly subsidized beds for aging seniors, Bartyik tells The Washington Post, but they’ve heard her plea. A spokeswoman for Fraser told CNN, “This is a heartbreaking situation for the family, and it’s quite upsetting for us as well. We are committed to reuniting the couple and we hope to do so within the next few weeks.”

To that end, Wolf has been moved to the top of the list for Morgan Heights, the facility in which Anita currently resides. Until that happens, the family will keep bringing her to see him and hope that the move will come before it’s too late.