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Alzheimer's means simple Christmas for Prince George couple

12/09/2014 02:06 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST
Christmas at the Ellerton's will be a little bit different this year.

The big Christmas tree decorated in red, green and white has been replaced by a palm tree, as Lou and Jim Ellerton prepare for a Hawaii-themed Christmas tradition at their Prince George home.

Jim has Alzheimer's, and that means the usual glitz and drama doesn't fit with his changing lifestyle.

"This year we have to adjust. It's not going to be big and colourful, it's going to be simple for him," Lou told Daybreak North's Audrey Mckinnon. 

The couple chose the Hawaii theme as a way to bring some sunshine to their holiday, because they both have fond memories of a family vacation to the islands.

"I took my whole family with us — all the grand kids, all the kids, all their wives. It was a good time, a really good time," said Jim.

Along with the change in decor, the pair won't be hosting the big Christmas dinner at their house this year either.

"Jim gets overwhelmed and then he pulls himself away," said Lou.

"We're going to go to them. That way if he needs to come home in between, have a little nap, rest up, he can."

Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008 after he went to the doctor to refill some prescriptions. He started to talk to the doctor about how Lou was complaining he would forget things, and the doctor sent him in for more tests.

"I want families to understand there's lot more there, and a lot more life to have, supporting someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia," said Lou, who has become Jim's caregiver.

Jim still has fond memories of past Christmases with his grandchildren. He says one of his favourite memories is when he bought his first granddaughter a large kitchen set, which came packed into a large box.

"She played with it for about two hours and then all of a sudden it got very very quiet. Very quiet. We walked into the living room, we couldn't find her. There she was in the box, fast asleep, with a blanket and a pillow," he said.

As for Lou, her favourite Christmas was the year she got engaged.

"I thought how clever was I to be engaged, and have a ring," she said.

That was more than 47 years ago.

"If I didn't have her, I wouldn't have a world," said Jim.

"I've told her, she's not in my life, she is my life."

To hear more about Christmas at the Ellerton's, click on the audio clip labelled: Alzheimer's means simple Christmas for Prince George couple

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