Sir James Munby, head of the family court, has condemned the rare practice of putting elderly couple in separate care homes.
Britain’s most senior family judge made the comments during a speech to the Association of Directors of Adult Care Services (ADASS) this week.
Sir James said: “We do know that people die of a broken heart,” The Daily Telegraph reported.
“I have read of cases where one person died and then the other dies a couple of days later. How long do people last if they are uprooted? A very short time.”
Margaret Willcox, ADASS president, said: “Sir James Munby spoke movingly and articulated well some of the difficult issues social workers face.
“Social workers work hard and sensitively to safeguard the rights of older people and do whatever they can to keep couples together if that’s what they want.
“There are always complex issues to consider, such as how to make this work where relationships are abusive, or when one person in the couple has needs the other can’t cope with.
“Social care frequently involves helping people during some of the most difficult times of their lives and the importance of social workers and social care needs to be more widely recognised.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added: “In some cases partners may have different care needs but except in rare situations couples who want to stay together should be allowed to so.
“When councils arrange care for an older person they have a legal duty to ensure it meets their needs. They have to take into account their psychological needs, as well as how any arrangements will respect their right to family life under the Human Rights Act.”