'It would be a sad world without her,' says Earl Smith, 90, who relies on wife for care

Phyllis Smith knew that one day, she would be caring for her husband. At 90, Earl is nine years her senior. He can't hear, he can't remember and he can't be left alone.

One story in Saskatoon Morning's series The Challenges of Aging

Earl and Phyllis Smith at their home in Saskatoon. (CBC)

As the oldest of the baby boomers turn 70, CBC looks at the changes ahead as this group enters its golden years. This series asks if we are ready for the challenges ahead. 

Phyllis Smith knew that one day she would be caring for her husband. At 90, Earl is nine years her senior. He can't hear, he can't remember and he can't be left alone. 

It's very, very hard.- Phyllis Smith

"I just told him he was lucky he married a younger woman," the 81 year-old said.

  The couple has been together 60 years. Phyllis has been the primary caregiver for four.

"I think it's my responsibility to do that," she said. "He has said to me, 'Phyllis put me in a home.' And I said, 'No, no I won't do that.' Maybe there will be a time but not now." 

Earl has a myriad of health problems from dementia to a cancerous tumour that wraps around his kidneys. The couple has transformed the family home to meet Earl's needs.
  A hospital bed sits in the middle of the living room. A wheelchair lift has been attached to the front steps. 

Phyllis said she is able to keep Earl at home because of the financial support she receives from Veteran's Affairs. 

Earl served in the Second World War when he was just 16 years old. A gun shot damaged his hearing in one ear. But Phyllis says now his good ear is going too. 

"When you try to talk to them and they don't hear you or they don't remember, it's very, very hard." 

Phyllis rises extremely early. She sits Earl at the kitchen table to read the paper while she takes the family dog for a walk. When she returns, she fixes lunch and cleans the house. 

"Then I'll tell him I have to go down and rest because I'm not a young chick either," she said with a laugh.

Self care vital 

  Phyllis receives help from home care workers twice a week so she can go swimming at the YMCA. 

Home care workers also come  Saturday mornings so Phyllis can run errands. Plus, her children encouraged her to buy a 60-inch TV so she can watch sports, alone, in the basement.

"I don't know what I would have done without these people around and my kids. They kept telling me ' You gotta look after yourself now, in order to look after him."

Phyllis said her husband still makes her laugh every day.

"You're funny Earl, now aren't you," she said loudly so her husband can hear.

"I guess," he said as they chuckled together. When asked how much he appreciates Phyllis, Earl's face lights up.

"It would be a sad world without her."

with files from Saskatoon Morning


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