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Memory Day intended to give lawmakers a jog on Alzheimer’s

By Olivia Ingle

olivia@newstribune.com

Kay Niemeier’s advocacy efforts for Alzheimer’s’s disease began when she went to her first support group with her sister.

Her mother had been diagnosed with the disease, which is a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.

“From the get-go, I knew I had to educate myself on this disease just to find out what we’re in for,” Niemeier said. “I called the (Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter) office for information, assistance and support. I decided then that as I went through it with my mother it was one thing I wanted to do to help other people.”

Niemeier now serves as president on the agency’s board of directors, and has been involved with the organization for more than 10 years.

“Now I’m working with public policy and financial support from a state and national level to research the disease,” she said.

She’ll be one of many at the Capitol on Wednesday for Memory Day, a day for advocates to meet with legislators to share their personal stories and discuss the importance of state funding for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The Alzheimer’s Association is asking legislators to maintain the current level of $500,000 for Alzheimer’s Service Grants in the Department of Health and Senior Services’ budget.

Janie Elson, communications coordinator for the Greater Missouri Chapter, said $500,000 was included in last year’s budget and is used for respite reimbursements to caregivers.

Niemeier said funding for respite care is important because it allows the caregiver to get away for a bit, whether to get a haircut, go to the grocery or to have time alone.

“Someone has to care for them (Baby Boomers) or they’ll be put in a facility,” she said. “It’s frightening to me when I think about the effects it (Baby Boomers) will have on our country,” Niemeier said. “When they’re no longer the producer, they’re the taker.”

She said education is key in terms of increasing advocacy efforts for Alzheimer’s.

“Now we educate them (legislators) to what happens if funding is cut back,” she said.

If you would like to participate in Memory Day Wednesday at the Capitol, register by calling 573-443-8665. The day includes a light lunch, advocacy training, legislative visits and a photo on the Capitol steps.

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