Former state governor to deliver Alzheimer’s caregiving presentation

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Elaine Schreiber, Patrick Lucey and Martin Schreiber got to meet Bobby Kennedy at a fundraiser in 1966. (Photo from “My Two Elaines”)

Elaine and Marty shared this moment of joy in October 2015 at her memory café assisted living facility. (Photo from “My Two Elaines”)

By Correne Martin

Former Wisconsin Governor Martin Schreiber (1977-79) will be in Prairie du Chien Thursday, April 11, to speak candidly about his book, “My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver.” 

This uplifting, free presentation will be given to the public from 10 to 11 a.m. at Hoffman Hall. No registration is required to attend this event; however, respite care is being provided for those who require it in order to attend. Call the Aging and Disability Resource Center at 326-0235 to take advantage of this volunteer service for your loved ones. 

The state’s 39th governor is someone who has watched his beloved wife, Elaine, gradually transform from the woman who gracefully entertained in Wisconsin’s Executive Residence to one who sometimes doesn’t recognize him as her husband. 

Marty’s book, composed with co-writer Cathy Breitenbucher, tells of the Schreibers’ personal love story narrative, and it also counsels caregivers through the role of respecting the family member with Alzheimer’s while also maintaining their own health. 

“[Marty will] talk about where he and Elaine started, their journey together, how she’s doing and how he deals with it,” said Heather Moore, dementia outreach specialist with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin. Moore is working with the Crawford County Dementia Care Network to offer this presentation. “He’s very laid back about how he’s survived being a caregiver. He brings a lot of humor to this.”

Following Marty’s speech and time for questions, his award-winning book will be available for purchase and signing. Net proceeds will be used to promote Alzheimer’s caregiver support.

“When he does his book signings, he asks you about yourself and personalizes his note to you. It’s a privilege to get him to Prairie du Chien, especially at this stage, as he’s still going through this,” Moore said, noting that Schreiber travels the state giving his presentation and has spoken in southwest Wisconsin recently, for the Iowa County Caregivers Coalition.

In addition to light refreshments, a small resource fair of Dementia Care Network representatives will be offered. 

Expectations are for around 50-100 listeners to attend the April 11 event. Those encouraged to sit in are health care professionals, caregivers, family members, and general residents of the community who wish to understand more about the disease, Moore said. 

Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 93,000 lives every year, according to the foreword in “My Two Elaines,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner and author Mark Johnson.

“The numbers are bound to rise as modern medicine helps us to live longer,” Johnson states. “Alzheimer’s is one of the great health challenges facing mankind in the 21st Century. It is also a disease that inspires a unique kind of dread. We find it terrifying to imagine a time when the body will continue to function but the mind will slip away.”

“My Two Elaines” guides readers through the day-to-day work of living with the disease. Johnson also refers to Schreiber’s book as “most of all a love story.”

“[Their] love for each other shines through. ... It endures the worst insults that Alzheimer’s heaps upon the living,” Johnson says. “It endures even as the disease constructs a wall between the couple and the rich years they’ve shared.”

Schreiber’s presentation is just one offering of resources the Dementia Care Network is bringing to Crawford County. Caregivers and professionals interested in additional Alzheimer’s and dementia information and programming are encouraged to find out more about the following:

•A Memory Café is offered monthly the third Tuesday each month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien. This is a social gathering for people with memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s or other dementia. It involves a social presentation and an activity.

•A Caregiver Support Group meets every fourth Tuesday of the month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Hoffman Hall.

•A Caregiving Journey class is coming soon to Crawford County. This will be a four-week discussion opportunity for caregivers working through the middle stages of dementia. 

•Family caregiver education workshops are available in the Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills areas as dictated by demand.

•The following family caregiver education workshops will be held at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on these Thursdays:  March 21, Communication Tips and Strategies; June 20, Understanding and Responding to Behavior Changes; Oct. 17, Is It Time for Facility Care?

•Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes will start at Crossing Rivers Health on April 15. This program runs six consecutive weeks from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

•A Dementia Live training event is scheduled for April 25-26 at Crossing Rivers Health. This dementia simulation experience promotes a better understanding of what it’s like to live with cognitive impairment and sensory change. Between 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., there are five time slots of 45-minute sessions for participants to select. Preregister by calling 326-0235 or at crossingrivers.org/dementialive. 

•A first of its kind in Crawford County, an Alzheimer’s run/walk is scheduled for Oct. 5, on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien. Excitement will start to build around this event soon as letters for sponsorships are being sent out. 

For more details, contact Heather Moore at (608) 444-3907, or Dawn Adams at the ADRC office at 326-0235.

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