1. When "I Do" Means Caring Through Illness: A Story of Devotion JJ, Natalie, and Emilie 53:20

Marty Schreiber has dedicated his life to advocating for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. As the former governor of Wisconsin and author of the acclaimed memoir “My Two Elaine's”, Marty draws from his own deeply personal experience as a Caregiver for his wife of 61 years, Elaine. For eight years, Marty cared for Elaine in their home as her Alzheimer's progressed, but he now admits he was unprepared for the physical and emotional toll it would take. Marty candidly shares his struggles, from trying to keep Elaine in his world to nearly working himself to exhaustion. He also opens up about difficult decisions like placing Elaine in assisted living and the guilt he still feels over not supporting his children through the process. However, Marty channels his regrets into wisdom, urging caregivers to accept help, join their loved one's reality, and focus on living fully themselves to best support their person. 

Through humor, heartache, and hard-won insight, he offers invaluable insights aimed at aiding fellow caregivers to embrace support, understand the dual realities of their loved ones, and nurture their own well-being for more effective care.

About Marty:

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 through various forms of media, Marty uses humor and compassion as he shares lessons from his ongoing, decade-plus journey as a Caregiver. 

His speaking tour takes him to conferences, civic organizations, senior communities, libraries, and more around the country. He has given more than 300 presentations since launching his awareness campaign in late 2016. Whether in Texas, Idaho, New York, Missouri, Florida, Ohio, or closer to home, caregivers tell Marty that his message encourages them and hope that they can manage their challenging situation.

Marty’s book, My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, is winning acclaim from caregivers across the country. It was rated as the No. 11 “Best Alzheimer’s Book of All Time” by bookauthority.org and was named to Caring.com’s list of “Best Caregiving Books” of both 2017 and 2018. 

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Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver

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JJ Elliott Hill Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver

Known since childhood as “The Elliott Girls” or simply, “The Girls”, it makes sense that we work together to support our mother, and each other. Our trio begins with Jenefer Jane “JJ” who was and always will be “in charge”. She’s the peacekeeper. The responsible one, ensuring Natalie and Emilie remain alive. Next is Natalie, the middle child, who was and always will be Miss Congeniality. She’s the athlete. The rebel responsible for three babysitters exiting the summer of ’84. Then there is Emilie, the youngest, who was and always will be “the baby”. At 6’1”, she is the sensitive and quiet soul. The one responsible for the guinea pig that begged for lettuce and the stray dog we adopted from the bus stop.

After high school we went separate ways, from New Mexico to North Carolina. JJ would go on to get her Master’s in Business Administration and work in the finance world before partnering with her now husband, Dexter, to run a variety of businesses. Natalie would go on to get her Master’s in Social Work degree, and work in the mental health field, advocating for children and families to receive the most appropriate services. Natalie would marry and divorce early on but later marry Jason. Emilie would exit college early to marry and gift us with Owen and twins, Maxx and Natalie Jane aka “The Kids”. Emilie would later divorce and work with county government, focusing much time on caring for the kids.

The source of the sisterhood falls to Jim aka “Big Jim” and Connie, small town high school sweethearts married for almost 40 years.

In 2005, at the age of 52, mom would be diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She hid the disease for years behind dad’s 6’2” frame. The tremors and sudden inability to move were both calmed and steadied by his arm and simple presence. He was her rock. Our rock. Close family and friends knew of her chronic illness, but to the rest of the world, everything was “fine”. Life would turn upside down when our dad unexpectedly passed in 2011 of a massive heart attack at the age of 58. The assumption was Dad would always be mom’s caregiver but that wasn’t God’s plan.

Mom would spend the years following our father’s death desperately seeking a cure for Parkinson’s while trying to manage her symptoms. As the years went by, the cruel symptoms associated with the disease increased, negatively impacting her body while her mind remained clear and in tune. We lived our lives checking in to make sure she was “okay” but knowing the day would come when we had to do more. And then it did. The summer of 2019 changed everything. That’s where the real caregiver story begins for us. Little did we know she would be only the beginning of our caregiving journey.

In March 2022, Natalie’s husband, Jason, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. From the first time Jason detected something off about the swollen lymph nodes in his neck, to the formal diagnosis, and the decision to move to New York City to participate in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the journey would push them to their limits. The silver lining of his diagnosis was the cancer brought them closer to God, restoring their faith in Him while also experiencing a myriad of blessings through the kindness of family, friends, and strangers. Their story is a testimony that will inspire and offer hope.