“I learned so much so late,” said Martin “Marty” Schreiber, former governor and author of My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver.
Schreiber shared his hard-won wisdom with members of the Men’s Caregiver Support Group sponsored by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin. Rob Griesel, Dodge County Dementia Care Specialist and one of the group’s leaders, invited the former governor to speak.
“If Alzheimer’s is bad, ignorance of the disease is worse.” - Marty Schreiber
His first message: “If Alzheimer’s is bad, ignorance of the disease is worse.” Understanding his wife’s diagnosis helped him make some peace with the changes she was going through. With knowledge and support, he could make “the pivot.” “I let go of the person who once was,” Schreiber explained, “so I could embrace the person who now is.”
Embracing that person means seeing the humor in situations, laughing together, and learning how to “make the glass half full.” But it also means recognizing the losses that come with dementia. “Caregivers lose a little bit of their loved one each day,” said Schreiber, which leads to “unacknowledged and unanticipated grieving.”
He admitted falling victim to arrogance, not asking for help, vowing “not to allow this disease to defeat me.” But “throwing muscle and effort” at a progressive disease is not a recipe for success. With encouragement from his children and support from a therapist, Schreiber became “courageous and intelligent enough to ask for help.” He urged the group to seek respite, get sleep, exercise, and eat well.
Finally, Schreiber counseled “prayer, persistence, and patience.” He encouraged caregivers to join the world of their loved one. Most important, “Don’t just wait for the storm to pass,” Schreiber advised. “Learn to dance in the rain.”
For more information about ADAW’s Men’s Caregiver Support Group, contact Jeff Hamm at 608-232-3400, extension 112. For more information about ADAW, go to www.alzwisc.org.