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Our family supported the Alzheimer Society to help our community, not realizing how much it would eventually help us

Our family supported the Alzheimer Society to help our community, not realizing how much it would eventually help us

Just a little over ten years ago, our son Jordan did his high school community service with the Newmarket chapter of the Alzheimer’s Society.

ColleenOfieldInitially, he spent time stuffing envelopes for mail outs. But then he was given the challenge of finding new supporters for the Coffee Break® fundraising campaign. He was asked to target retail. Looking back I recall him telling me and Craig how frustrating it was trying to get support. He called so many retailers to no avail. One night he asked us if a few of our stores might be interested in helping out. He explained the idea, asking customers if they’d be interested in “buying” a cup of coffee – in other words, donating one dollar for a coffee cup decal, to support the Alzheimer Society. He explained that the customer would write their name on their coffee decal, and the all of the donated coffee cups would be posted on a wall.

Craig and I thought it was a great idea! Alzheimer’s disease was not unknown to us, Craig’s grandmother had had the disease. Although we didn’t see her frequently, we were aware of the sad loss of her memory. Further, we knew the disease usually affected seniors, and that the risk dramatically increases after age 65. We have many senior shoppers, so helping support the Alzheimer Society seemed a natural fit. That year we introduced the Coffee Break program in all our stores and we were excited with the support of all our franchisees, their staff and the generosity of our customers!

Often times we make donations to excellent causes and wonder where our dollars go. The unique fact that each store’s contributions would stay within their community, helping their own local Alzheimer Society was appealing to everyone! That first year our stores raised $54,489! And so began Bulk Barn’s annual participation in the Alzheimer Society Coffee Break fundraiser.
Three years ago we initiated the “dollar match”, where our franchisees and corporate office each contributed a dollar for each dollar donated by our customers on World Alzheimer’s Day. And the last three years the corporate office staff have raised money as well, through auctions, bake sales, even donation jars for loose change…it all adds up!

Living with Vascular Dementia, Finding a Positive Path

Just two years after Bulk Barn became involved in the Alzheimer Society’s Coffee Break program, my mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I’ve learned that despite the dementia one is diagnosed with, symptoms can vary extensively from one person to another. In hindsight I see my mom’s symptoms quite clearly now. At the time, when her symptoms began, we were baffled as to the cause. Her cognitive memory tests were excellent, time after time. Yet her behaviour in public settings was becoming increasingly peculiar. She started talking to strangers and making comments out loud that clearly should not have been shared. She also began shop lifting, something that truly shocked us! Her diagnosis was finally made after an MRI test.
We had very little understanding of vascular dementia, and the highly respected specialist who had given us the news wasn’t very helpful in that department either. Her family doctor was only a few months away from retiring and getting in to see her was next to impossible. Then mom began showing symptoms that gave us cause to be very concerned for her well being and safety. At the same time she was becoming less enchanted with our help, and getting her to perform her own daily personal hygiene routine became almost impossible. We had absolutely no idea how to manage this newest development without one of us, or all of us feeling frustrated and defeated.

I finally called the Alzheimer Society. I knew she wasn’t diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but we were at a complete loss as to what to do to help mom. The following week we had a meeting with the Alzheimer Society in my mom’s home town. That meeting was invaluable. Such a breath of fresh air in what had become a very sad and overwhelming situation. Armed with some knowledge of the disease, reading material and assorted options, for the first time since we noticed changes in our mom, we felt we were on a positive path! Someone knew what we were experiencing and wanted to help us learn to care for our mom in the best way possible for mom and our family.

A second meeting was planned for a few weeks down the road, after we had time to digest the information from our first meeting.

It was a relief to find help, and in such a warm and friendly atmosphere. At no time did I mention my association with Bulk Barn to our Society case worker. I feel it is important to mention that the incredible onslaught of emotions alone can be difficult for family members and friends, not to mention the person recently diagnosed. It began to sink in that my mom, the intelligent, amazing woman with the huge heart of gold, the rock and calm in our crazy wonderful family, was going to slip away from us, slowly.

How could we possibly deal with that? We didn’t have a choice. And in the same way that symptoms of the disease are different for everyone, so too is the way in which we manage our feelings.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t until after I watched a three minute video my sister’s friend forwarded to her from the Alzheimer Society, that I clearly understood the stages of the disease’s development, or the duration of time these stages would span. I was stunned to realize that ten years was the average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with this disease. I saw the video last year.

I still ponder, every once in a while, how strangely interesting it was that Jordan did his community service at the Alzheimer Society in our community. And that would lead to Bulk Barn’s participation in the Alzheimer Society’s Coffee Break program.

I never dreamed how soon the Alzheimer Society would be returning the favour.

The book THE 36-HOUR DAY by Nancy L. Mace M.A and Peter V. Rabins M.D., M.P.H came highly recommended by the Society. It’s a great resource for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, their caregivers, family members and friends.

Colleen Ofield
Executive Vice President, Bulk Barn Foods


Pour aider nos concitoyens, notre famille a soutenu la Société Alzheimer, sans réaliser qu’un jour nous aurions nous aussi grandement besoin de son soutien.

Il y a un peu plus d’une dizaine d’années, dans le cadre d’un programme organisé par son école secondaire, notre fils Jordan a fait du service communautaire pour la Société Alzheimer de Newmarket.

ColleenOfieldAu départ, on lui a fait coller des enveloppes pour les envois postaux. Mais ensuite, on lui a confié la mission de trouver de nouveaux appuis pour la campagne de financement Pause-caféMD, en concentrant ses efforts sur les commerces de détail. Je me souviens qu’il nous disait à Craig et à moi jusqu’à quel point il était frustrant d’essayer d’obtenir du soutien. Il a fait de si nombreux appels en vain. Un jour, il nous a demandé s’il était possible que certains de nos magasins nous donnent un coup de main. Il nous a expliqué son idée, à savoir offrir aux clients d’acheter une « tasse de café », c’est-à-dire de donner un dollar pour un décalque de tasse de café afin de venir en aide à la Société Alzheimer. Ensuite, tous les décalques signés par les donateurs seraient exposés sur un mur du magasin.

Craig et moi avons tout de suite trouvé l’idée géniale! De plus, la maladie d’Alzheimer ne nous était pas inconnue puisque la grand-mère de Craig en a été atteinte. Nous étions au courant des lourdes répercussions que cette maladie avait sur la mémoire. Nous savions également que cette maladie touche plutôt les personnes âgées et que le risque augmente considérablement après 65 ans. Plusieurs de nos clients appartiennent à cette catégorie d’âge, et nous avons donc trouvé tout naturel de soutenir la Société Alzheimer. Cette année-là, nous avons lancé le programme Pause-café dans tous nos magasins et nous avons été agréablement surpris par le généreux soutien que nous avons obtenu de la part des franchisés, du personnel et de tous les clients!

Souvent, nous faisons des dons pour d’excellentes causes sans trop savoir comment notre argent sera utilisé. Dans ce cas-ci, le simple fait que les contributions servent à soutenir la Société Alzheimer de la ville ou de la région où le magasin se trouve enchante tout le monde! L’année du lancement, nos magasins ont recueilli 54 489$! C’est ainsi qu’a commencé la participation annuelle de Bulk Barn au programme de financement Pause-café de la Société Alzheimer. Il y a trois ans, nous avons lancé notre offre de « dons jumelés », qui consiste pour nos franchisés et notre siège social à verser un dollar pour chaque dollar versé par nos clients au cours de la Journée mondiale Alzheimer. De plus, au cours des trois dernières années, le personnel du siège social a pris l’initiative d’organiser des ventes aux enchères, des ventes de pâtisseries et a même installé des tirelires pour recueillir la petite monnaie. Tout ça finit par compter!

Faire face à une maladie cognitive vasculaire

Un peu plus de deux ans après la mise à contribution de Bulk Barn au programme Pause-café de la Société Alzheimer, une maladie cognitive vasculaire a été diagnostiquée à ma mère. J’ai appris que les symptômes d’une maladie cognitive varient grandement d’une personne à l’autre. Avec le recul, je reconnais les symptômes de ma mère très clairement. Au moment où ses symptômes ont commencé à se manifester, nous n’avions absolument aucune idée des causes possibles. Elle obtenait toujours d’excellents résultats dans ses tests de mémoire et ses tests cognitifs. Pourtant, son comportement en public devenait de plus en plus étrange. Elle commençait à parler à des inconnus et passait des remarques à haute voix qu’il eut mieux valu passer sous silence. Elle a également commencé à faire du vol à l’étalage, ce qui nous a vraiment abasourdis! Le diagnostic est finalement tombé après un test d’imagerie par résonnance magnétique.

Nous étions très peu familiers avec les maladies cognitives vasculaires, et l’éminent spécialiste qui nous a annoncé la nouvelle ne nous a pas non plus aidés à mieux comprendre. Notre médecin de famille était sur le point de partir à la retraite et il était presque impossible de prendre rendez-vous avec lui. Ma mère a ensuite commencé à manifester des symptômes très inquiétants pour son bien-être et pour sa sécurité. Au même moment, il est devenu de plus en plus difficile de lui faire suivre une routine d’hygiène personnelle. Nous ne savions plus du tout comment composer avec les nouveaux développements de sa maladie.

J’ai finalement appelé la Société Alzheimer de la ville où vit ma mère et nous avons pris rendez-vous. Je savais qu’elle n’avait pas la maladie d’Alzheimer, mais nous étions au bout de notre rouleau. Notre rencontre au bureau de la Société Alzheimer nous a fait l’effet d’un véritable vent de fraîcheur, car notre situation était devenue intenable. Pour la première fois depuis l’apparition des premiers symptômes de ma mère, nous avons senti que nous étions désormais sur la bonne voie. Nous avons obtenu des renseignements et de la documentation et nous avons été mis au courant des options possibles. La personne devant nous savait exactement ce que nous étions en train de vivre et voulait nous aider à donner ma mère les meilleurs soins possible, pour son propre bien-être et pour celui de notre famille.

Nous avons tenu une deuxième réunion quelques semaines plus tard, ce qui nous a donné le temps de bien digérer l’information obtenue la première fois.

Quel soulagement de trouver de l’aide dans une atmosphère aussi chaleureuse et amicale! Soulignons qu’à aucun moment je n’ai mentionné mon association avec Bulk Barn à l’intervenante de la Société.

Je crois important de mentionner que les émotions qui nous assaillent dans une telle situation sont difficiles à gérer pour les membres de la famille et pour les amis, sans mentionner la personne à qui la maladie est diagnostiquée. C’est à ce moment que j’ai commencé à comprendre que ma mère, une femme intelligente, admirable et dotée d’un cœur en or, le centre de gravité de notre merveilleuse famille, allait maintenant s’éloigner de nous tout doucement.

Comment faire face à une telle réalité? Nous n’avions pas le choix. De la même façon que les symptômes de la maladie diffèrent selon les personnes, nous gérons également nos sentiments de manière différente.

De manière surprenante, ce n’est qu’après avoir regardé une vidéo de la Société Alzheimer que j’ai clairement compris les stades du développement de la maladie et la durée de chacun des stades (voir le lien ci-joint). J’ai été étonnée de réaliser que, en moyenne, l’espérance de vie après le diagnostic était de dix ans environ.

Quel étrange retournement que ce soit le travail communautaire de Jordan à la Société Alzheimer de notre ville qui a donné à Bulk Barn l’impulsion nécessaire pour participer au programme Pause-café de la Société Alzheimer.

Je n’aurais jamais cru que la Société Alzheimer allait si rapidement nous rendre la pareille.

Colleen Ofield
Vice-présidente exécutive, Bulk Barn Foods

Jay Ingram on “The End of Memory” (Contest)

Jay Ingram on “The End of Memory” (Contest)

Looking for a new book to pick up this summer?


Science writer, broadcaster, and journalist Jay Ingram has spent his career educating the public on issues of science and technology, and in his latest book “The End of Memory: A Natural History of Aging and Alzheimer’s” he set out to explore the complicated history of the disease, its treatments, and the research into its causes.

Want to learn more about it? Read an interview with Jay here and enter the contest to win a free copy of the book.


Lynda and her mom’s story

Lynda and her mom’s story

My dear mom is 88 years old and lives in a long-term care facility where she is given excellent care. Mom has dementia and along with it aphasia, which affects her ability to use language to communicate.

While she doesn’t seem to recognize most relatives and longtime friends, she still knows me, her daughter. I can tell by the way her face lights up when she sees me. She introduces me to the staff every time saying, “This is my daughter.” And they always reply that they can tell I’m her daughter because I look so much like her. It brings a smile to her face.

Mom was a great mother and I miss our chats so very much. I nod my head and agree with things she says and hope I’ve given the right answer since I don’t understand what she is saying. I don’t look forward to the time she doesn’t know me but know it is inevitable.

When I go to visit her, I take a soft Pilates ball for games of throw and catch. Mom’s years of bowling and playing golf show in her still quick responses and enjoyment of the game. I also take old photo albums. She looks through these for awhile, occasionally pointing to someone and naming them but her words are not clear.

Lynda_and_her_moms_story_thumbHer beautiful blue eyes still shine out from her aged face and are reflected in the same beautiful blue of her two year old great-granddaughter’s eyes. Because they live at such a distance, Mom and great-granddaughter have only met twice but oh, how lovely each visit has been. One of my favourite photos from those visits is of Mom with arms outstretched and both hands on her great-granddaughter’s cheeks, each looking deep into the other’s eyes.

The little one is curious and patient and Mom is thrilled. Mom loves family pictures like this. I label them for her so she can name the family members in them and post them in a display in her room. Staff at the long-term care home tell me she often has her little photo albums or loose pictures with her as she travels the hallways by wheelchair. They are a link for her to family and good memories and a way for her to communicate with those she meets.


L’histoire de Lynda et de sa mère

Ma chère maman, qui a maintenant 88 ans, vit dans un excellent centre de soins de longue durée qui lui donne toute l’attention nécessaire. En plus de la maladie d’Alzheimer, maman souffre d’aphasie, ce qui affecte son langage et sa capacité de communiquer.

Même si elle semble ne pas reconnaître ses proches et ses amis de longue date, elle sait toujours que je suis sa fille. Je le remarque parce que son visage s’illumine lorsqu’elle me voit. Elle me présente toutes les fois aux membres du personnel en disant : « C’est ma fille » . Et chaque fois, ils lui répondent qu’ils le savaient déjà parce que je lui ressemble tellement. Cela la fait sourire.

Maman a été une excellente mère et les conversations que nous avions auparavant me manquent beaucoup. Aujourd’hui, lorsqu’elle me parle, je confirme ses paroles par un signe de la tête en espérant avoir donné la bonne réponse, car je ne comprends pas ce qu’elle dit. Je crains le jour où elle ne me reconnaîtra plus, mais je sais que cela est inévitable.

Lynda_and_her_moms_story_thumbLorsque je lui rends visite, nous nous lançons un ballon souple Pilates. Elle aime ce jeu et réagit toujours rapidement, résultat de ses années de quilles et de golf. J’apporte aussi de vieux albums de photos. Elle les regarde et pointe parfois quelqu’un du doigt en le nommant mais ses mots ne sont pas clairs.

Ses magnifiques yeux bleus brillent toujours au milieu de son visage vieillit et se reflètent dans le bleu des yeux de sa petite-fille de deux ans. Parce qu’elles vivent loin l’une de l’autre, elle se sont vues seulement deux fois, mais chaque visite a été tellement belle. Sur l’une de mes photos favorites, maman étire les bras pour prendre les deux joues de sa petite-fille entre ses mains et toutes les deux se regardent intensément dans les yeux.

La petite est curieuse et patiente et maman est ravie. Maman aime les photos comme celle-là. Je dispose toutes ses photos préférées sur un présentoir dans sa chambre et je les identifie pour qu’elle puisse lire le nom des personnes qu’elle reconnaît. Les employés du centre me disent qu’elle apporte souvent ses albums de photos avec elle lorsqu’elle se promène dans les corridors avec son fauteuil roulant. Ces photos lui permettent de conserver un lien avec sa famille et ses souvenirs et de communiquer avec les personnes qu’elle rencontre.

Revera has huge success with Celebrating Memories campaign

Revera has huge success with Celebrating Memories campaign


Revera sites across Canada have been holding fundraising campaigns for the past three years in honour of World Alzheimer’s month in September. Events including everything from bake sales to clothing drives to walks, runs and bike rides. Close to $170,000 was raised this past September, the most yet!

“We are grateful for organizations like Revera who show leadership and engage employees and customers to rally support and ultimately raise funds that provide a brighter future for people affected by dementia” Says Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO, Mimi Lowi-Young.


La campagne de financement de Revera remporte un immense succès!


Depuis maintenant trois ans, les centres de services et de soins Revera de tout le Canada tiennent des campagnes de financement dans le cadre du Mois mondial Alzheimer qui a lieu en septembre. De nombreuses activités sont organisées à cette fin : ventes de pâtisseries, collectes de vêtements, marches, courses et randonnées à vélo. Près de 170 000$ ont été recueillis en septembre dernier, le meilleur résultat à ce jour.

« Nous sommes heureux de constater que des organisations comme Revera prennent l’initiative pour mobiliser le soutien de leurs employés et de leurs clients et pour recueillir des fonds afin d’offrir un avenir meilleur aux personnes atteintes de l’Alzheimer ou d’une maladie apparentée », déclare Mme Mimi Lowi-Young, chef de la direction de la Société Alzheimer du Canada.

Sharon and her mother’s story

Sharon and her mother’s story

I had taken care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. Shortly after my father passed away nearly 11 years ago from this disease, my mother was diagnosed too. I was devastated when the doctor told me and I knew what lay ahead. I was determined to do everything I could to slow down this disease and give my mother the best quality of life that I could.

sharonandmomAfter my mother was diagnosed I quickly had her move in with me. I learned about all the programs that were available for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and enrolled my mom in an adult day program that was available in my area. At first she fought me to go but within a few weeks she looked forward to it.

At first she went one day a week but I soon realized that it was not enough as I found she was sleeping through most of the days, causing her to be more confused and not sleeping through the nights. However, within a few months she was going seven days a week. She loved it, spending time with other people doing crafts, playing various games and having a nutritious meal at lunchtime. She was even sleeping through the night, which was a blessing. The doctors were amazed on how well she was doing and told me to continue doing on what I was doing as her memory loss was progressing very slowly.

I encourage anyone who is caring for a family member or friend living with this disease to look into the different programs their area has to offer. Contact your local Community Care Access Centre or Alzheimer Society for help with finding a program in your area.

I was very lucky to be able to care for my mother at home for nine years. Sadly, last January my mom had to move into a nursing home due to other health issues, but I am thankful for the time I had with her.

25th Anniversary of the Walk for Memories!

25th Anniversary of the Walk for Memories!

The Walk for Memories presented by Memory Care held in Toronto celebrated a milestone year–it’s 25th anniversary. The Walk, held on January 31st at Brookfield Place, was truly a milestone event.

The Walk broke many records:

  • Highest number of attendees
  • Highest number of teams registered
  • Highest number of donations
  • Most dollars raised in the history of the event

With the hard work and generous support of Walkers, donors, volunteers and staff, the Walk has raised over $675,000 to date! We could not have achieved this without incredible walkers like Shane and Mary. As well as staff like Cathy and Rosy.

Check out the photos below from the Walk, and join the conversation online with the hashtag #whyiwalk

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Heart health benefits the brain? Dr. Jane Rylett explains why

Heart health benefits the brain? Dr. Jane Rylett explains why

February is Heart Month. Did you know that heart-healthy living can reduce your risk of dementia? But why is still debated among researchers. Is it because heart health has a direct impact on dementia or because activities that benefit the heart also improve brain health?

I spoke with Dr. Jane Rylett, a researcher at Western University and Board Member at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.

Is exercise beneficial for brain health because it is good for your heart or are there other factors at play?

“Initially, researchers believed that the link between exercise and dementia was directly related to its benefits to the heart. Because exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, more blood reaches the brain along with key nutrients, oxygen etc.

But now research is showing that other factors are involved:

  1. Animal models as well as human studies have shown that exercise increases brain stem cell growth and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change neural pathways and synapses).
  2. The body’s metabolic rate increases during exercise, which helps regenerate the brain.
  3. Exercise has also been shown to benefit the brain’s nerves cells.
  4. Diabetes, which is linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, also seems to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

So the benefits of exercise appear to go beyond just having a healthy heart, although the two are certainly linked.”

Why does a heart-healthy diet, low in saturated fats and cholesterol, help protect against dementia?

“This is one of the most direct ways heart health impacts the brain. If a person has poor cardiovascular health, which can be the result of a poor diet and lack of exercise, blood flow to the brain decreases. The brain receives less oxygen and other key nutrients as a result.

This can also lead to mini-strokes in the brain. Mini-strokes are so small you may not even know you’ve had one. But over times, these can be detrimental to your brain health and is a cause of vascular dementia. ”

What’s the link between smoking, heart health and dementia?

“The link with smoking, which definitely harms vascular health, is less clear. It has been hard to prove that smoking leads to dementia. However, since it can compromise heart function and general health, the relationship may be linked in that aspect.”

Why I walk: for my Dad, my hero

Why I walk: for my Dad, my hero

Walk-imageOne year ago this September, Andrea Mailhot’s father was diagnosed with dementia.  She knew nothing about the disease. But the Alzheimer Society was there to help.  She attended an information session about dementia, which was a godsend for her.

At the session, Andrea heard about the Society’s signature fundraising event, the Walk for Memories. Two weeks later, she had organized a small team of volunteers to participate in the unique indoor walk. That first year would prove to be especially difficult  as her new reality became more apparent.

“While it was heartwarming to see so many people supporting their loved ones who have dementia or walking in their memory, it suddenly sank in that my father, my hero, was now one of them,” recalls Andrea.

She remembers how the Society representative she had met at the information session noticed her crying, went over and walked a few laps with her. “She hardly knew me. I couldn’t believe it when she contacted me two weeks later, wanting to know how I was doing,” says Andrea. “That’s how much they care.”  Although she only had two weeks to plan that first year, Andrea managed to raise about $400.

One of the most difficult challenges for Andrea is how her father’s personality changes so drastically. She continues to get help from the Society, receiving guidance on how to best care for and interact with him. “I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “Whenever I send an email, I get an answer the same day.”

Andrea has found other novel ways to raise funds. She teamed up with a good friend who raises funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, and the two share the proceeds of bake sales, bottle drives and garage sales organized throughout the year between the two charities.

Prominent at the Walk this year will be a poster of Andrea’s dad with a touching narrative of what he means to her.  “My dad is my hero,” she wrote.  “He taught me everything I know. He’s still a proud man, and I don’t want him to lose that part of himself. It’s hard watching him age so quickly, forgetting to eat…. being a prisoner in his own home.”

What is Andrea’s major motivation for participating in the Walk for Memories? “There is no other place where one can go for education about this awful disease, and we know so little about it,” she says.  “The kind of support the Society offers is beyond amazing.”

To register for Walk for Memories, go to

Written by Nicole Chenier-Cullen, Alzheimer Society Volunteer

Meet Zoe: an 11 year old Walker

Meet Zoe: an 11 year old Walker


Meet Zoe. She’s a typical 11 year old girl who likes to swim and spend time with friends and family.

But despite her young age, Zoe is already striving to make a difference for people with dementia and their caregivers. She is raising money in support of local programs and services for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford County as a 1-girl team in the Walk for Memories.

Zoe began attending the walk when she was four with her mother, who began walking and raising money because the disease had impacted several family members on her mother’s side of the family. But four years ago, Zoe wanted to spread her wings. She launched her own team Walk for Memories team and is about take part in her fifth walk for memories.

“I love to walk. It’s a lot of fun, but it makes you feel good too,” said Zoe, when asked what she likes about attending the event.

What would Zoe say to any of who you who are thinking of walking or supporting a walker this year?

“You should help. The more people who know about this disease and can help those who have it, the better.”

Find a walk in your area and support people making a difference against Alzheimer’s.