Marty Schreiber, Concern & Awareness Volunteer, Milwaukee
“If there’s one thing worse than Alzheimer’s, it’s ignorance of the disease”
Former Governor Martin (Marty) Schreiber has been a Concern & Awareness volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association for more than 10 years and has had a significant impact on the cause. Schreiber works to recognize and support Alzheimer’s caregivers – an unpaid workforce that now exceeds 16 million people nationwide. Schreiber's goal for caregivers (whom he calls heroes) is that they learn, cope, survive and even thrive during their difficult journey. He also has a strong belief in the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association including the 24/7 Helpline and has said, "The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline number ought to be shouted from the rooftops."
Schreiber has crisscrossed Wisconsin and traveled to 18 other states to help families, employers and healthcare providers understand the importance of counseling and other caregiver resources — support that de-stigmatizes the disease, reduces stress and alleviates guilt. Whether in metro areas or underserved rural communities, he says that family caregiver concerns are the same. So, he listens to their stories, touches their hearts with compassion and always adds humor. Said one caregiver, "You saved my life."
Schreiber speaks about Alzheimer's caregiving because he's been there. The love story of Marty and his wife Elaine that began in the 1950s when they were high school freshmen began to take the cruelest of twists some 16 years ago. Wracked by Alzheimer's — but with Marty always at her side — Elaine has been transformed from the gracious former First Lady of Wisconsin into someone who now depends on family and professional help for all of her basic daily care. Yet, Marty and Elaine still find moments of joy through activities such as music and simply holding hands. He lovingly tells their story in the acclaimed My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer's Caregiver (www.mytwoelaines.com).
At 400 presentations and counting, Schreiber is building upon his legacy of work on behalf of older adults. As lieutenant governor and governor, he led reforms for nursing home care oversight and helped develop Wisconsin's in-home Community Care Organization. In 2015, he collaborated with the State of Wisconsin and business groups to create the online Dementia-Friendly Employers Toolkit, which is now used by HR departments and employee assistance programs.