Elderly couples split up by government rules

The separation of 82-year-old Pieter Schouten and his wife of 60 years, the 77-year-old Coby Schouten is causing a stir. Pieter was placed in a nursing home because he has Alzheimer, but his wife, who also needs care, was not allowed to go with him, because she is still on a waiting list.

Members of Parliament want State Secretary Martin van Rijn to explain the situation and especially why the couple was separated.

Pieter and Coby Schouten

Political fractions are riled up by the news and SP MP Renske Leijten wants to know how often this occurs.

PvdA leader Diederik Samsom responded to a Twitter message of the son-in-law, Jack Stikvoort, who brought it in the media through a Facebook page and Twitter, that he wanted to help. Samsom came under fire from people who accused him of only looking to gain popularity votes as it seems politicians are not aware this is rather rule than exception.

Stikvoort has been the caregiver for years, until the doctors decided it was time for Pieter to move to a nursing home and if the family wouldn't do so voluntarily, the physician threatened to obtain a court order. The son-in-law started a Facebook page to draw attention to the matter, where he keeps people updated. Pieter Schouten was moved to a nursing home earlier today, leaving his wife Coby to fend for herself.

In a Facebook message, Stikvoort also shares the letter he received from CIZ, the authority that evaluates the level of care people need. 'We realize it's very difficult for some people to be separated, but the fact is that the AWBZ (exceptional medical expenses act) focuses on individuals and the specific care they need. Some nursing homes offer room for couples of which only one needs care, but that varies from nursing home to nursing home,' wrote Rik Siere from CIZ in a letter to the family.

It is regulated by law that partners should be able to stay together, according to PvdA-leader Samsom. In theory it should be possible for the partners to stay together, but there are many legal snags making it impossible, and it seems more often than not elderly couples are separated, because they don't have the right level-of-care indication, needed to qualify for the same home.

So far the Facebook page has almost 20,000 "Likes" and still counting. Stikvoort keeps its followers updated. Several politicians have promised help. All eyes are on the government to come up with a solution, not only for the Schoutens, but for all similar cases.