updated 4/23/2009 11:58:38 AM ET 2009-04-23T15:58:38

A couple forced to live apart after more than 60 years of marriage will soon be reunited thanks to a new law changing Hawaii's rules for residential nursing care.

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Gov. Linda Lingle signed a measure Wednesday that will allow 87-year-old Terry Kaide to move into the same residential care home as her husband Sidney, 89, for the first time in two years.

"I'm so happy," said Terry Kaide, who cried with joy as she watched from her wheelchair while Lingle signed the bill. "I feel great because now we don't have to get permission to live together. We're free to move in."

The Big Island couple, married for 63 years, had become the unintended victims of rules that allow only two Medicaid clients and one private-pay client to be in the same residential care home.

The problem for the Kaides was they paid using private insurance and savings. In 2007, that forced them to live apart if Sidney Kaide was to receive the care he needed.

The law allowing only one paying resident in each foster home was intended to ensure that most of the beds in such homes were available to low-income people on Medicaid.

The new law allows married couples, reciprocal beneficiaries, siblings, parents of a child or best friends to live together in the homes even if they aren't covered by Medicaid.

Nursing home report card"My dad doesn't have much longer, and she at least wants to be with him," said daughter Annette Clay. "She's been very depressed and very lonely, and there wasn't much we could do to help her."

Following Terry Kaide's back surgery two years ago, she sought exemptions to the law from the governor, the government department that certifies the home and the attorney general.

Everyone wanted the Kaides to spend the rest of their lives together, but there was no reading of the law that would allow it. So the Kaides and their three daughters decided to persuade state legislators to change it.

While her father can't talk or walk and gets his food from a feeding tube, Terry Kaide said he squeezes her hand when she visits to show that he loves her and understands.

State officials said the third bed in the community care home, which is funded with state and federal government money, has been certified and Terry Kaide can move in immediately. Previously, the law prevented her from moving in even though only two people were living there.

She visited her husband every day, paying her caregiver $500 a month to drive her 10 miles from her home to the town of Papaikou, almost 10 miles away from her husband.

"It ends an injustice for one family and it brings hope to families who may find themselves in a similar situation," Lingle said at the bill's signing ceremony. "It's about real people and their lives together."

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