The names Martin and Elaine Schreiber will ring a bell for many in Wisconsin, especially political watchers. The story they know is that of the state’s 39th governor and the first lady. Since 1962 when Martin won his first political race for state senate, they’d been familiar faces on the political circuit, crisscrossing the state in campaigns for lieutenant governor, then for governor. They made an elegant couple, greeting Bobby Kennedy, President Carter and other national leaders when they came to Wisconsin. For almost 30 years, election night usually found the Schreibers side by side watching the returns come in for one of Marty’s races, accepting the victories and the defeats with grace. Later, when his own political career had finished, Marty became one of the state’s best known government relations consultants.
This was the story familiar to so many, but it is not the one you will find in the pages of this book. My Two Elaines is instead the story of what happened to the Schreibers later in life, when Elaine began to show the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease and then gradually, but surely, came under its grip.
Although this is the Schreibers’ personal tale, many Americans will recognize the broad outlines. Alzheimer’s disease in now the sixth leading cause of death in the US, claiming more than 93,000 lives every year. And the numbers are bound to rise as modern medicine helps us to live longer. 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.
So, in practical terms, My Two Elaines is an invaluable guide to millions who will face Alzheimer’s in the role of patient or caregiver. In its pages, you will find a knowing and sympathetic guide to the day to day work of living with the disease. And it’s important you have no illusions, for work it is.