'I see desperation': Tearful elderly Canadian couple captures worldwide attention
A picture of crying elderly grandparents, separated into different care homes in Canada, is the saddest photo their granddaughter says she has ever taken.
A photograph from Canada of a crying elderly 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.
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Wolfram was diagnosed with lymphoma on August 23 and the family is desperate for the two 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 immediate health concerns led them to be put in separate facilities.
"It's a little bit of a broken system right now," Bartyik said.
She said the first call from the local health authority came on August 25, after the photo received international attention. "We were told he is a top priority," Bartyik said.
She said Anita was more aware of what was happening than her husband. She said her grandfather's dementia was growing and the family was afraid Wolfram soon wouldn't remember Anita.
"With the news of cancer, our fight to have them in the same facility is even more urgent," Bartyik said.
The couple met in Germany in 1954 and married four months later. Wolfram was a bricklayer and a shortage of work after World War II led the couple to emigrate to Canada.
Bartyik said her grandparents spoke in their native German in sad situations and Wolfram called Anita "my little mouse'' in German. "That's what he calls out when he sees her," Bartyik said.