Wolf and Anita Gottschalk, 83 and 81 respectively, fell in love after living in the same apartment complex throughout their childhoods. The couple decided to marry in 1954 and immigrate from their childhood homes in Dusseldorf, Germany, to Surrey, British Columbia, Canada and start a family. They had three children and spent 62 years together…
But everything changed at the beginning of 2016. Anita needed round-the-clock care, and Wolf was diagnosed with lymphoma and in the early stages of dementia. The couple was devastated when they were told that there were no open slots at nearby retirement homes for a married couple – only singles.
Wolf was placed on a waiting list to move in with his wife, but the Fraser Health Authority said that they weren’t sure how long it would take.
The couple spent 62 years doing everything together in a new country and couldn’t bear to be separated. Their grand daughter, Ashley Bartyik, knew that they needed to see each other. She quit her job in order to help her mother care for Anita. Every other day they drive Anita to see her husband a half-hour to his own retirement home.
“The stress of this has taken control of her and she has a pacemaker,” Bartyik said about Anita. “She has become almost completely immobile and uses a walker wherever she goes and a wheelchair depending on how far the walk is.”
When they are about to be separated, they begin to cry. To be apart so late in life is unbearable.
“My grandma can’t even kiss him goodnight now. He calls out her nickname, little mouse, for her when he sees her,” Bartyik said.
Once their story went viral, Fraser Health announced that they would be looking into the situation…but it was too little, too late.
“This isn’t just our issues, it affects so many people in Canada. Our health care system needs to have a spotlight on it,” said Bartyik.
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