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Posted on Aug. 26, 2016

This Heartbreaking Photo Shows An Elderly Couple Who Were Forced To Live Apart

My heart can't take it.

Anita and Wolf Gottschalk have been inseparable for 62 years. But now, due to failing health and an imperfect nursing home system, they've been forced apart.

Ashley Bartyik

They got married in Germany in 1954, just three months after meeting. They later moved to Surrey, B.C., and started a family.

Now at 81 and 83 years old, Anita and Wolf both have health problems and have had to live 30 minutes apart since January.

According to their granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, Anita has mobility issues and uses a pacemaker. Wolf has dementia and congestive heart failure, and he was diagnosed with lymphoma just this week.

Ashley Bartyik

"We were told he couldn’t return home to my grandmother," Bartyik told BuzzFeed Canada.

Wolf has been living in a transitional care home as he awaits a permanent bed in a subsidized care facility. Meanwhile, Anita has been moved into an assisted living facility.

They're trying to get Wolf moved into the same home as Anita, but he's been stuck on a waitlist for months with no help from health authorities.

Ashley Bartyik

In the meantime, family members take Anita to visit Wolf every other day and, every single visit, the couple cry when they see each other.

"He comes down from the elevator, and it happens every time," said Bartyik. "They break down in tears of excitement and sadness."

Never knowing when it could be the last time, Bartyik has been taking photos of their meetings. She posted one of the photos on Facebook and described the struggle of Anita and Wolf living apart.

facebook.com

She called it "the saddest photo I have ever taken" and it's now been shared more than 6,000 times.

Fraser Health told the family that Wolf has been moved to a priority waiting list, but they still can't offer a timeline.

"It’s been extremely difficult watching your grandparents go through this and there’s not much you can do," said Bartyik.

"In one word it’s just been completely overwhelming."

"It’s been proven that couples that are separated, it does serious damage emotionally and physically," she added.

Ashley Bartyik

Despite it all, her grandparents' relationship remains the heartwarming example of love and respect she's always known it to be.

"They’re very passionate," she said. "My grandpa loves giving her little massages and tickles on the back of her neck."

Although some have suggested she start a crowdfunding campaign to get Wolf moved into the home faster, Bartyik won't hear of it. She doesn't want her grandfather to skip ahead of the system — she wants the system to change.

"The point of this is to draw attention to thousands of people waiting for subsidized beds," she said. And, of course, she wants to see Anita and Wolf reunited.

"She wants to be able to tuck him in and say goodnight," said Bartyik. "Everyone deserves to be in the same place as their husband for their last days."

Ashley Bartyik

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