Why the Family of the Elderly Couple Being Forced to Live in Separate Nursing Homes Won't Be Creating a GoFundMe Account
Ever since a photo of a heartbroken couple of 62 years sharing a tearful goodbye before returning to their separate nursing homes went viral, offers to help the couple have poured in from around the world.
While the couple’s family has been “extremely overwhelmed” by the generous offers from around the world, they will not be accepting donations or setting up a GoFundMe page, the couple’s granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik tells PEOPLE.
“We’re very grateful to GoFundMe and a bunch of other places for reaching out, but at this point, money is not a part if it,” Bartyik, 29, says. “It’s all about getting them [help] through the proper channels and shining a spotlight on what’s broken.”
Bartyik’s grandparents, Wolfram and Anita Gottschalk, have been inseparable during their 62 years of marriage. But now, the Canadian couple can only see each other every other day since they’ve been forced to live in separate nursing homes.
“They can’t be apart. It’s devastating,” the couple’s son, Bill Gottschalk, told PEOPLE. “They’re so in love that they’ve got to be together all the time.”
Anita, 81, and Wolfram, 83, of Surrey, British Columbia, have lived in separate care facilities for nearly eight months – ever since Wolfram was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and officials declared that he needed more care than Anita was physically capable of giving.
After Wolfram was moved to a transitional center, Anita asked to be put into a nursing home too so that she could be reunited with her husband.
Unfortunately, Anita was placed at a different nursing home and while Wolfram asked to be moved to the same center as his wife, his failing health pushed him to the bottom of the waiting list. In addition to his heart issues, Wolfram also suffers from dementia and was diagnosed with lymphoma last week.
Now, the couple sees each other for just a few hours every other day.
“Every time they see each other they burst out into tears,” Bartyik said. “They’re happy to see each other, but also sad that they’re not with each other all the time.”
On Tuesday, Bartyik posted a photo of the couple’s heartbreaking goodbye on Facebook, hoping that drawing attention to this issue would pressure Fraser Health, to change its policy to allow her grandparents and others in a similar position to be reunited more quickly.
The photo has been shared more than 10,000 times and Bartyik says she’s received almost 1,000 messages from people around the world who want to help.
“We had a couple from New York offer to pay for privatized care for them which was fantastic,” she says.
Despite all of these offers, Bartyik says her family isn’t looking for donations or for an outside organization to fix her grandparents’ situation because it wouldn’t be fair to thousands of other people who find themselves in a similar situation.
“If my grandfather gets a private bed it will kind of defeat the purpose of why I wrote the post and why I’m trying to draw attention to the lack of subsidized beds for couples,” she explains.
“We want him to go through the proper channels like the thousands of other people on the waiting list above and below him.”
The family’s wish for Anita and Wolfram to be reunited through public channels may soon be granted. On Monday, a spokesperson for Fraser Health told PEOPLE that they have been in contact with the family and hope to reunite the couple soon.
“The challenge in this case is that the husband’s care needs are considerably higher than his wife’s,” the spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE. “He needs residential care while his wife needs assisted living care. This means we need to make sure the facility can accommodate both their needs.”
“Since his wife moved into assisted living in July, there have been no vacancies at the facility she is in, but we do hope to have this resolved in the next few weeks,” the statement continued.
Until then, the family will keep bringing the lovebirds together for visits as much as they can.
“We want to make sure that with [my grandfather’s] dementia that he still remembers my grandmother,” Bartyik said. “The memory of her hasn’t faded an inch.”