Sandi & Florent Foucher - Northern B.C. Honourees
2023 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's
If you’ve ever cheered on the Prince George Cougars, enjoyed the local theater or worked out at the university gym, you’ve likely been in the presence of Sandi and Florent Foucher – but unaware of the challenges they live with following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. After 52 years of marriage, eight since they first recognized his symptoms, Sandi and Florent are sharing their story to inspire small changes that can have a large impact for people living with dementia in the community.
“People don’t understand the struggles that are going on inside,” says Sandi, primary caregiver to Florent, who lives at home with the disease. “I don’t want to be negative when I see people. I want to be positive about something.”
“I want to be positive too,” Florent says with a smile.
Florent, retired from a successful career in the trucking industry, is a very social person who has always loved to converse about topics ranging from current events, politics and sports to genealogy, books and travel. So, when he started having trouble finding his words in 2015, he knew something was wrong. A psychiatrist later confirmed it was dementia. As Florent and Sandi navigated the health-care system and connected to all the support and education available through the Alzheimer Society of B.C., they also began finding their own ways to make it through social situations with Florent’s language loss.
“It bothered him, but once we told people that it’s ok, that Florent does have Alzheimer’s and that we’re ok, he wasn’t afraid to have a conversation,” Sandi says. “It offered us a sense of relief because he was able to say things and not worry about how people were going to react.”
Sandi and Florent found most people they told had the desire to help, but they lacked the knowledge to engage meaningfully with someone living with dementia. Some also misjudged how much support they needed, based on how well they appeared to be. Sandi is now encouraging others facing fresh diagnoses to connect their friends and families with the Society to gain the confidence to respond to someone living with dementia, “instead of worrying that they might say the wrong things and hurt feelings,” she says.
“After coming to the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Northern Resource Centre workshops, I felt comforted by knowing more, being more prepared and knowing that it’s OK,” Sandi says. “As the stages progress, I gain more understanding of the disease.”
Sandi and Florent have close ties to the community, via a strong support network that includes Sandi’s mother, their daughter and son and their families, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and extended family and friends. When they’re not out in the stands at a Cougars game or supporting their grandchildren’s sporting events, they’ll be on a daily walk, checking out live music at the seniors’ centre or working in their yard. Later in the dementia journey, the pair have accepted that some activities like travel are no longer part of their vision for retirement. Instead, they enjoy a full and active lifestyle close to home, with a consistent routine, clear communication and help from their network and the Society, where Sandi attends a caregiver support group.
“If you know one person with Alzheimer’s, you know one person with Alzheimer’s,” says Sandi, reflecting on an early revelation she had after learning about the disease. “There are so many good books and wonderful people to lean on and learn from. Remember, everyone is different. You just can’t compare.”