Skip to content

Okanagan family rallies around mom on dementia journey

Valorie Mann to be Kelowna honouree of IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s

Valorie Mann and her husband Derril created a beautiful life for their family.

Raising a close-knit family of five kids, it has grown to now encompass 10 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

But as Mann now faces the most difficult challenge of her life at age 90, confronting symptoms commensurate with Alzheimer’s disease, her family has rallied around her.

Mann has been selected as the Kelowna honourees for the 2024 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzeheimer’s fundraiser taking place Sunday, May 26, 1 p.m., at City Park.

And as in life, Mann’s family, more than 30 strong, will be on hand to support her, wearing bright red t-shirts with a heart logo and the phrase ‘Mann Power.’

Daughter Laurie Carr said she was taken aback a little by the walk honour extended to her mom, but acknowledged the family presence in her mom’s life through support programs offered by the Kelowna branch of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. caught their attention.

“Mom was in the Minds in Motion program and we had five name tags for ourselves as we took turns going with her to those classes each time which really helped her,” Carr said.

It also matched up Mann’s family with others on the dementia journey with their loved ones, important when that journey often leaves caregivers with more questions than answers.

Carr describes her mom as an honest, loving, dedicated wife, mother and grandmother.

“She has always been very accepting of everyone for who they are and supportive of the choices they made in life,” she said.

Mann grew up in Vernon and after high school she applied her interest in mechanics to a career in the Canadian Armed Force, becoming an instrument technician.

Her career was short, however, as she fell in love with fellow instrument tech and eventual husband Derril.

Mann became a dedicated stay-at-home mom, and after the kids had grown up and left home, became a caregiver for her husband, who was afflicted with heart disease.

When she began showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Derril stepped up to be her caregiver, to the extent even their kids didn’t realize how much he was compensating for her symptoms, wanting her to remain living with him.

Derril was learning to care for the both of them for the first time, a responsibility he took on with positivity, enthusiasm and love.

He accessed dementia education offered by the Alzheimer Society of B.C., and despite all the challenges of this period, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, the couple continued to manage well on their own.

Derril was determined to be a good primary care provider asking for little help from his kids until he died in the spring of 2023.

Within a short time-frame of losing her husband, Mann sold her house and was moved into a long-term care home, with the ongoing support of her children – daughters Laurie and Shelley Hyde, and sons Brian and Mike Mann.

“We’re super proud of her resilience and how she’s coping with her world imploding this last year,” Carr said.

“She went from living with our father independently, to losing him, her home and everything in it. Now she’s realizing she’s losing her memory and she still shows up positive and lovely, and thankful for the people who help her.

“I’m just so proud of her strength and resilience.”

Guy Bird, chair of the Walk for Alzheimer’s in Kelowna for several years, knows well what the Mann family is experiencing, having made an Alzheimer’s journey of his own with his wife.

Bird calls it “a terrible journey that only goes one way.”

But his efforts have led the Kelowna walk to become one of eight ‘flagship’ walks held across B.C., a reflection of the fundraising support Bird and a host of volunteers have built up.

The event raised $4 million across the province last year, essential funding that supports programs for both those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Bird advocates for caregivers to take advantage of support programs offered through the society to help alleviate the stress of their situation.

“I always like to say don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It is not a sign of being weak, it makes you smarter,” he said.

And the need for that support continues to grow, given that 85,000 people in B.C. live with dementia and the people who care for them.

“When I got involved with the walk back in 2019, that number was 65,000 people back then,” he said.

For this year’s Alzheimer Walk, a number of draw prizes have been offered by sponsors for participants – five $100 gift cards from T-Bones; a Big White Ski Resort senior’s ski pass; and a $500 vacuum cleaner.

The local Lions Clubs will also host a BBQ by donation.

Entertainment will also be provided by Kelowna jazz vocalist Anna Jacyszyn.

For more information on how to register as a participant, either as an individual or part of a team, or to make a donation, check out for more information.

For Mann’s family, the walk will be turned into a belated birthday celebration for her as she just recently turned 90.

“We will make a thing out of it with at least 30 members of our family and a couple of friends,” said Carr.

That kind of support from a large extended family also reiterates another adage Bird often uses to describe someone with Alzheimer’s disease: “They may not remember who you are but they will remember how you made them feel.”

READ MORE: Kelowna pickleball player dies during Vernon tournament

READ MORE: Evacuated residents launch class action lawsuit against UBC, City of Kelowna

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
Read more