Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, Part 1 With Marty Schreiber

Check out Jeremy’s latest podcast on learning, coping, and surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver by listening on “Apple Podcasts” or “Google Podcasts” or read below for 3 Lessons From the Life of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver.

#50 – According to the 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report, an estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021.

Alzheimer’s not only makes life challenging for those who are affected by it directly, but also for the caregivers who are looking after their loved ones.

One of these caregivers is Marty Schreiber, former governor of Wisconsin, a business owner, author of My Two Elaines, and this episode’s guest. Marty has been a caregiver for his wife Elaine, an Alzheimer’s patient, for the past 18 years.

In this 50th episode special, Jeremy Keil speaks with Marty to help Alzheimer’s caregivers learn, cope, and survive through this particular life challenge. Marty shares his emotionally overwhelming story as a caregiver to help you avoid the mistakes he made and tackle stress and anxiety while improving the life of both you and your loved one.

Marty discusses:

  • Why ignorance of Alzheimer’s is worse than the disease itself
  • How to join your loved one’s world to bring more happiness to the both of you
  • Moments of joy that you can cherish with your loved one every day
  • The importance of keeping your own health in check as a caregiver
  • Letters from Elaine’s diaries that will completely change your perspective as a caregiver
  • And more

3 Lessons From the Life of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

By being vulnerable and sharing his story, Marty aims to help as many caregivers as possible to avoid the mistakes that he made, so that they can take better care of both themselves and their loved ones.

Here are 3 lessons from Marty’s decade-plus journey as a caregiver to help you tackle the challenges that follow Alzheimer’s.

Read on!

  1. Understand That Ignorance is Worse Than the Disease

According to Marty, the only thing worse than Alzheimer’s is the ignorance of the disease itself.

Ignorance by the medical profession. Ignorance by the caregivers. And to some extent, even ignorance by the patients themselves (especially during the early stages of the disease.)

To overcome this, you need to understand where the real challenges lie and address them before it’s too late.

If you fail to do so and solely focus on treating the disease, you might end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and still be left with frustration.

Plus, you might miss out on enjoying the daily moments of happiness with your loved ones.

All of this can also snowball into depression, anxiety, and unacknowledged grieving for the caregiver.

Having a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and the associated challenges will help you make better decisions. (You can find several useful resources by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association.)

  1. Enter Your Loved One’s World

Marty observed that the more he tried to keep his wife Elaine in his world, trying to pull her back into reality, the more difficult it became to cope with Alzheimer’s. It caused discomfort and disappointment for them both.

So, what did he do? He joined her in HER world.

In other words, he let go of the person that she was before and started embracing the person that she had become.

Here’s an example of “joining her world” that Marty shared on the podcast:

Once, Elaine asked Marty about how her parents were doing. She had no recollection of the fact that they had already passed away.

Marty decided to bring her back to reality and so he told her the truth. This led to utter shock and disbelief for Elaine, who immediately started worrying that she probably didn’t get to say goodbye, much less attend the funeral.

Seeing her cry, Marty promised himself that he would never let her go through this moment again.

Now, whenever Elaine asks about her parents, Marty reassures her that they are doing fine. This is him joining her world, and it ultimately leads to more happiness and less stress for the both of them!

  1. Keep Your Own Health and Well-Being In Check

Marty found a series of notes and diaries that Elaine had been keeping since her early Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Going through them, he realized two things:

  • Sometimes, caregivers don’t really understand the courage that it takes to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and to continue to live through the daily adversities.
  • Caregivers often underestimate how important they are to their loved ones. In a way, they’re their lifelines.

As their lifeline, you have to be strong. So take better care of your own health.

Being a caregiver is the toughest job in the world. What makes it so difficult is having to see your loved one die a little bit every day.

But Marty suggests that you should never stop looking after your own health and well-being. Get enough sleep, have a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

If you’re staying healthy yourself, you can take better care of your loved one!

In fact, in one of her pieces, Elaine writes addressing Marty, “I’d be so lost without you. So please continue to take good care of yourself for me as well as for you.”

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If you want to follow the complete journey of Martin and Elaine Schreiber fighting Alzheimer’s together, check out My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver.

If you have any questions regarding how you can achieve your ideal retirement, feel free to contact us!

Resources:

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About Our Guest:

Former Wisconsin Gov. Martin J. Schreiber is an award-winning crusader for Alzheimer’s caregivers and persons with dementia. Reaching audiences nationwide at live events and via media, he uses humor and compassion to share lessons from his ongoing, decade-plus journey as caregiver. Prior to writing My Two Elaines – and while he still cared for his wife at home – Schreiber helped the Alzheimer’s Association launch Operation: Stronger Together. The multi-year awareness program initiated in 2015 has helped the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter connect record numbers of families to education and resources that are vital to successful caregiving.

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