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Calgary couple married for 66 years separated by long-term care home facilities

“I miss him,” Martha said through tears. “It’s just like my hand is cut off when he’s not there. This is what I can’t understand — why can’t I go?” Martha said. “If I can be there, I can help him and he wouldn’t be upset — he’d be so much easier to deal with.”

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

A Calgary couple is at the receiving end of our country’s mismanaged healthcare system as the victims of an absolutely devastating situation unfolding in Alberta.

Martha and Willard Farnall, married for 66 years, have had a lifelong marriage fit for the movies.

But because of challenges with the way Alberta takes care of seniors with different needs, the two have been separated from each other. Martha lives on her own at home, but Willard has dementia and requires long-term care. Unfortunately for the couple, there are no existing facilities that accommodate couples with different levels of care needs.

“I miss him,” Martha said through tears. “It’s just like my hand is cut off when he’s not there. This is what I can’t understand — why can’t I go?” Martha said. “If I can be there, I can help him and he wouldn’t be upset — he’d be so much easier to deal with.”

Willard has been at the Foothills Medical Centre, on a waiting list for long-term care bed, which typically takes eight weeks. Martha spends most of her time in his hospital room, going back home once Willard falls asleep.

“I keep thinking, ‘Here I am here at home, crying.’ I must have shed a river of tears now,” Martha said.

“It’s awful, I can’t talk to him and I keep thinking, ‘What is he going through? Is he waking up looking for me?’ A lot of people don’t understand.”

According to the CBC, a spokesperson with Alberta Health Services said officials are working with Willard and Martha to reach a solution that would work best with the couple by coming up with alternatives. One of which includes Martha moving into her own private suite in the facility, but not in the same unit. Sadly, that process could take years.

With the growing needs of an aging population, advocates say more supports are needed for people to age in place.

Martha says she understands the situation, but wants to see change happen before it’s too late.

“I understand his dementia will get worse and it will come to the point [where] he may not know me, but until that point, I’d like to be there for him,” Martha said.

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