Couple Married 69 Years Forced Apart Days Before Christmas

December 20, 2017 Updated: December 20, 2017

A Canadian family says they’re being subjected to cruel treatment by their government just a week before Christmas, as an elderly couple who’s been living in the same long-term care facility for years is now being forced into separate institutions.

“My parents have been together for a total of 73 years and still sleep in the same bed,” the couple’s daughter Dianne Goodine Phillips posted on Facebook on Dec. 17, a day before her parents were divided. “I feel people need to know what a flawed system we have in place. Two words describe it: ‘unethical and cruel.’”

On Monday, Dec. 18, Herbert Goodine, 91, was removed from the facility he shared with his wife Audrey Goodine, 89, following an assessment by the Department of Social Development, a Canadian government agency.

The department decided that dementia-afflicted Herbert Goodine needed more care than the facility where he was staying was able to provide.

Phillips acknowledged her father’s state had deteriorated and it was becoming more difficult for the facility to provide him with the care he needs.

Herbert Goodine had reportedly violated several of the facility’s rules and had switched off an alarm and exited the property without following proper protocols.

But his daughter says that the agency’s refusal to approve a written request to keep her parents together over Christmas is harsh and uncalled for.

“And at this time of year, the way things took place, I feel that is abuse to seniors,” said Phillips, according to CBC. “It’s emotional abuse. It might not be physical, but I do believe it is emotional.”

Anne Mooers, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, told CBC in an email that the agency was aware of the situation and the family’s concerns, but that it was against procedure to comment on case particulars.

“If it’s determined that a senior needs additional care or that their safety is potentially in jeopardy, the department works with the resident and family members to facilitate a move to an appropriate home,” Mooers wrote in the email, according to the CBC.

“Individuals who require a higher level of care than what can be provided in special care homes are moved to where their needs can be more appropriately met, such as in a nursing home or a memory care home.”

Herbert Goodine’s Monday transfer to a Relief Care bed at the Plaster Rock Tobique Valley Manor took him about 30 minutes away from his wife.

It was reportedly a tearful farewell.

Audrey Goodine remained behind in the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, where she and her husband shared a room.

Jennifer Eagan, the owner and operator of the care facility, said that she is legally bound to comply with the decisions of the Department of Social Development, irrespective of the timing.

“I know that when someone is reassessed at a higher level, legally I have to comply with the rules and regulations of Social Development and the government of New Brunswick,” Eagan told CBC.

“It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. It’s the way it happened this time, which I agree is unfortunate. It’s right before Christmas.”

Phillips’s Facebook post had been shared more than 18,000 times as of Wednesday morning, and has sparked a flurry of comments critical of the care facility.

Unfairly so, Eagan argues.

“I would hope that anyone passing judgment on any home, in any situation, would get all their facts straight before spewing information,” she said, according to CBC.

And as it turns out, the couple will get to spend Christmas Day together after all, at their daughter’s home.

Herbert Goodine reportedly can’t wait to see his wife again.

“You don’t know how close we are,” he said. “And always was.”

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