MEQUON - Former Wisconsin Gov. Marty Schreiber is visiting the Mequon area as part of a tour to promote his book written for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s.
His wife, Elaine, has been dealing with the disease for the last 12 years.
“I’ve missed moments of joy with my wife,” Schreiber said, adding there were also moments of depression.
Schreiber said it was hard to enter his wife’s world, there were too many things he didn’t know and things he didn’t know soon enough.
He started working on his book, “My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver,” because he understood how important it was to enter her world.
Schreiber questioned why more is not known about this disease. He said he did review books on Alzheimer’s but he couldn’t find anything practical or straightforward to help caregivers learn they are dealing with two people. In his case, it’s two Elaines — “the person I knew for years who gave me comfort and someone who is brand new.”
“If Alzheimer’s is bad, ignorance of the disease is worse,” he said.
To write the book, Schreiber connected with Cathy Breitenbucher. He said she originally contacted him for an article on Alzheimer’s and he knew she’d help him “get across understandings caregivers need to have.”
Breitenbucher, a Whitefish Bay resident and former full-time journalist, did some medical stories for M Magazine and linked up with the former governor for the one on Alzheimer’s, which ran in July 2014.
She said the story had some impact and helped encourage Schreiber. Linking up again, the two decided over breakfast in October 2015 to write the book.
“We had a book in our hands in 13 months,” Breitenbucher said. “It’s certainly his story.”
She said the book comes off as a love story, calling it “a tribute to their lives together.”
All proceeds from the book go to help promote Alzheimer’s caregiver support programs.
Going on tour
Schreiber has gone on tour to promote his book, which has taken him across the state and to a few out-of-state appearances.
“His energy is really remarkable, it’s like he’s running for office again,” Breitenbucher said.
Schreiber recently stopped at Concordia University Wisconsin, speaking to a Geriatric Pharmacy class. Additionally from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 8 he will visit Book World, 10920 N. Port Washington Road, in the Mequon Pavilion.
He'll return to the Mequon area on May 31, visiting Newcastle Place, 12600 N. Port Washington Road. Schreiber also has speaking engagements in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Menomonee Falls, South Milwaukee, Elm Grove, Wauwatosa, Greendale, Dousman, Oconomowoc, Hartford, and Burlington, among others.
Schreiber said the main reason he went on the tour was the same reason he wrote the book — to get the word out about the disease and to help caregivers in dealing with loved ones.
“I want to make sure the medical profession, health insurance companies, and others understand the impact of this disease,” he said.
Schreiber quoted the classic line of instead of waiting for the storm to pass, you need to learn to dance in the rain.
“No caregiver will ever dance in the rain, but you can understand more about the disease to make things better,” he said. “Yes there will still be pain, anxiety, and depression, but maybe you can capture more moments of joy.”
When asked why he’s doing so many stops in the Mequon area, Schreiber said the area is very important.
“I want to be as much as possible being able to get the message out and Mequon is without question a very important area of our state and an area I think people would benefit by better understanding this disease,” he said.
Schreiber said the tour will last “as long as people want to hear me.”
“They can be assured when the room is empty I’ll stop talking,” he said, laughing.
Regarding the disease, Schreiber had a few words of advice.
“You cannot do it alone,” he said. “Anyone who thinks they can they’re doing a disservice to their loved one.”
He also recommended the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
Breitenbucher said the story connected to her in a way she didn’t expect. She got involved because it was something she could do to support him and help to support caregivers across the country.
“It’s a great thing what he’s doing,” Breitenbucher said. “Everyone has something to give to a cause, everyone can find something that speaks to them and they can make a difference.”