The daughter of an elderly New Brunswick couple separated just days before Christmas says public support has been “overwhelming” for the family.
She’s also hopeful their story will create momentum for change in the system, even when the media attention has faded.
“I believe a change needs to be made, not just for my family — for even a single senior,” said Dianne Phillips.
“The nursing home is their friends, it’s the company that they have. Their life has narrowed down to a room and to take them from their few friends a few days before Christmas…it’s just not humane. It’s cruel and it’s emotionally abusive.”
Phillips’ parents, Herbert and Audrey Goodine, have been a couple for 73 years and married for 69 of those.
Up until Monday, the pair lived at Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B.
But after a recent assessment of Herbert’s condition, officials decided his dementia had progressed to a point where he needed a higher level of care and the home could no longer accommodate him.
Within three days, the 91-year-old was moved to another care residence about 45 minutes away.
“My dad, when we left the Villa yesterday and we headed away, he just kept saying, ‘Why do they have to do this now?’ And my mother, she would say the same,” Phillips said.
“They’re both very clear that my father needs more help and they are willing to stay apart for a few weeks or a few months until they can be reunited again but not before Christmas.”
Phillips recorded a video of her father on his first night in his new private room at a manor in Plaster Rock, N.B. In it, he recounts his nightly ritual with his 89-year-old wife.
“We go to bed and she usually had one of them long gowns on that was so cozy and I’d crawl next to her and almost push her off the bed,” he says. “But then she’d reach over and take my hand and put her hand in my hand like this. We’d stay that way the whole time.”
WATCH: N.B seniors separated after 7 decades together
Phillips became emotional when she described returning to check on her mother in Perth-Andover. Audrey had removed all the Christmas decorations from her tree.
“She just said, ‘Christmas is over. I want this put away,’” Phillips told Global News. “She said, ‘What’s the point of sitting in front of a Christmas tree when your father is not here to enjoy it too?’”
Care home and province respond
On Monday, the owner and operator of Victoria Villa said she could not comment on specific cases due to privacy, but explained the home is a Level 2 facility.
Herbert’s recent assessment had found he was at a Level 3.
“Once a resident is beyond our care, [the Department of Social Development] re-assesses that resident to determine what level they are. At that point, I have to follow those rules and regulations set by the government. In fact, it’s against the law for me not to follow those rules,” Jennifer Eagan said.
The province’s Department of Social Development also told Global News it takes concerns seriously and works with families to ensure appropriate options “to enable residents to receive the care they require and deserve.”
Meanwhile, Phillips said her parents will indeed be spending Christmas together at her home in Fredericton.
But as for their long-term plans, she is still hopeful they can be moved into a new residence together.
With a file from Ross Lord
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.