The decision to force an elderly New Brunswick couple into separate long-term care facilities just days before Christmas is receiving widespread criticism online.

Herbert Goodine, 91, and Audrey Goodine, 89, have been married for 69 years and recently moved into the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth Andover, N.B. Herbert has dementia and his health has been deteriorating

Their daughter, Dianne Goodine Phillips, was told Friday morning by social development that her father would have to be moved to a nursing home immediately.

"I was basically given a six-hour window to make a decision with what I was going to do," Phillips says.

Phillips says she was given three options; two of which would have them both go to a nursing home three hours away. The other would have Herbert go to a nursing home 30 minutes away without his wife.

When Phillips couldn’t make a decision, she says social development forced her parents to decide.

Her father was moved to the nursing home thirty minutes away Monday morning.

"The short notice is unacceptable period,” Phillips says. “Had this had happened earlier in December or even after Christmas, it would have been different."

In a statement to CTV News, the Department of Social Development says they understand this is a difficult situation for the family, but “If it's determined a senior needs additional care or their safety is potentially in jeopardy, the department works with the resident and family members to facilitate a move to an appropriate home.”

Jan Seely, president of New Brunswick's Special Care Home Association, says special care homes are not equipped with a locking system and that safety is a priority.

“With dementia, if we get into a situation here where somebody is wandering out the front door and we don't have a coded system, then really their safety is at risk," Seely says. “Nobody wants to read in the paper that a senior has gone missing.”

Phillips understands her father had to be moved, but doesn't understand why she was given such short notice and why they couldn't wait until after Christmas.

“According to the standards we have to give 15 days notice when they are going to move a client, but in the case of dementia and in the case of wandering, I'm sure those actions have to happen quicker,” says Seely.

Phillips hopes she can eventually get her parents in the same place. But for now they'll have to adjust to their new living conditions.

“He had a completely furnished apartment with my mother and four days before Christmas he was removed," he says. “He said to me before I left, he said, ‘Look where they've put me … I'll miss holding your mother's hand in bed when I go to sleep.'"

The operator of the special care home in Perth Andover did not respond to CTV News’s request for comment by airtime.

Phillips says Audrey and Herbert Goodine will spend Christmas together with her in Fredericton.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.