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Elderly couple reunited after 15 months of living apart

Published on

Cathy Dobson

A Sarnia woman’s plea for her elderly parents to be reunited at their long-term care home has been answered.

After 15 months of living apart, Gord Conroy, 94, has moved to the same floor at Twin Lakes Terrace as his wife Toni, 93.

“He was excited, and my mom cried,” said daughter Diane Herron, who couldn’t attend the reunion because of ongoing pandemic restrictions.

The Conroys, married for 73 years, had been separated by COVID-19 and a bureaucratic decision to place them in different levels of care.

Toni was assigned to a long-term care unit at the Murphy Road facility. Though the couple was initially told they could live together, Gord was later placed in an adjacent but separate retirement facility after undergoing an assessment.

The couple desperately wanted to live together again, but even visiting was prohibited after the pandemic arrived in mid-March.

Herron blamed bureaucratic red tape for their plight, and was concerned they’d be unable to spend their remaining time together.

The Erie St. Clair Local Integrated Health Network (LHIN), which co-ordinates long-term care placements, told Herron Ontario’s policy of spousal reunification did not apply to her parents because their needs differed.

But Herron persisted, repeatedly contacting the LHIN and Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey. When nothing happened, she told the story to The Journal.

Two weeks later, on May 19, she received a call from the administrator of Twin Lakes, and from a vice-president at Steeves & Rozema, which owns the facility.

They said a bed was available for her father. Not in the same room, but at least on the same floor.

“I was stunned,” Herron said.  “I could hardly believe it.  I asked, but no one would say what changed and why my dad was finally moved.

“I’m very, very relieved that my parents are together.”

Shortly after The Journal story ran a LHIN representative retested Gord Conroy for two hours, with Herron listening in on speakerphone.

Several days passed, nothing happened, and Herron was deflated again.

“Everyone told me it wasn’t going to happen, that people in crisis take priority over spousal reunification.”

Then the call came and Gord was abruptly moved into a semi-private room, about seven doors down from his wife.

Carole Alexander, Steeves & Rozema’s vice president of long-term care, said the move became possible once the reassessment qualified Gord for long-term care, and a bed designated for spousal reunification was available.

“I did intervene when the family called me,” said Alexander.  “I asked the LHIN to look into it. They are the gatekeeper and hold the waiting list.

“Now, we have a very happy outcome.”

Herron said she’s satisfied both Twin Lakes and Steeves & Rozema did their best.

“But I have nothing good to say about the LHIN,” she said. “My last conversation with the LHIN was that dad was not a priority and he wouldn’t be moved.”

Her parents, she added, will not easily get over their 15-month separation.

“It was unnecessary. Why do they put these poor people through this? It shouldn’t be this hard getting old.”

Toni Conroy, 93, and husband Gord, 94, have been married 73 years.
Submitted Photo


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