Families call for changes to senior care after married couples separated for treatment
Families are calling for changes to long-term senior care after two couples married for more than 60 years were separated for treatment.
Claire Wyatt, 88, and his wife Ruth, 85, have been married for 68 years.
Ruth is confined to bed after a recent fall saw her hospitalized and Claire didn’t take the separation well.
“I couldn’t eat my supper, I couldn’t sleep, I was going crazy, so I made up my mind: ‘I can’t live like this. I’m going back to get her,’” he said.
Claire is Ruth’s caregiver. Their daughter, Denise Petrycky, visits her parents daily.
“They’re a team, they’re like salt and pepper, they go together,” Petrycky told CTV Winnipeg.
Ruth has severe dementia and Claire has shown early signs of the disease. Petrycky says her mom needs to go into long term care for safety reasons, but the couple wants to stay together.
Finding a place they like without a long waiting list has been hard, but until they do they’ve decided to stay in their apartment with four homecare visits a day. Petrycky says she feels like she’s failing.
Fighting back tears, she told CTV Winnipeg: “Terrible, I feel awful and I’m not the only one this is happening to. This is a widespread problem.
“I can’t separate them. I won’t do it. It’s not fair. They would both just die if they were separated and it’s not right.”
Petrycky hopes to find a place for her parents soon, where her dad can focus on being a husband and leave the primary caregiving to health-care workers.
Meanwhile, in Brandon, Man., a petition to reunite Dorothy and her 95-year-old war veteran husband Allan Smith has reached more than 25,000 signatures.
The couple, married for 71 years, were separated in May when Dorothy was placed in long-term care. She also has dementia.
Relatives believe married couples do better together and they shouldn’t have to be separated.
The number of Canadians living with the dementia is expected to rise rapidly.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada estimates that by 2031 the number of cases could double from 564,000 to 937,000.
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen says 600 care home beds are in the planning stages.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says new carehome developments will include housing close by for spouses.
Norma Kirkby, program director with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, says more families are seeking help to navigate the system.
“We know that typically the health regions do try to bring people together, but it might take time before that could happen,” she said.
--- With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Michelle Gerwing