SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Here in Missouri, more than 120 advocates made their way through tough winter weather to Jefferson City for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Memory Day.

Advocates met with state legislators to ask for support for those with the disease and their caretakers.

One of the advocates for the association, Marcia Rauwerdink, said they have a few priorities that they would like to discuss with legislators.

One of the priorities for advocates is implementing the Missouri State Alzheimer’s Plan.

There was a similar plan put into place over 10 years ago which would increase research and improve care for those with the disease.

Now advocates say, it is time for an update. 

“Basically create a plan, layout what people who have a stake in this and what they really need,” said Rauwerdink. “For caregivers to work with caregiver’s families, to work with those who are suffering with diseases to do a couple of things: ease that suffering ease the stress of going through that and also, very importantly, to try and save some of the costs, particularly for Medicare that this horrible disease does cost the state. ” 

According to Rauwerdink, Governor Parson created a task force to move forward with an update. Task force members have made several recommendations that advocates are using to push forward with the proposed plan.

Another priority is establishing a dementia service coordinator. They would be in charge of making sure that the Missouri State Alzheimer’s Plan continues to move forward smoothly and that progressive efforts are being made.

One other priority — which Rauwerdink said she feels very passionate about — is a significant increase in funding for respite care grants.

Rauwerdink said the reason the funding is so important is that it not only helps those suffering from the disease but the caregivers and their mental health as well.

 “It can be used to help those caregivers take better care of themselves,” said Rauwerdink. “They can’t get away to go to the doctor, they can’t get away to go to the dentist because they can not leave their loved one alone. It’s a 24/7 job.”

She said Missouri has been stuck at $425,000 for respite care grants for 10 years due to budget cuts. 

She says there are an estimated 120,000 people living with the disease and if everyone tried to take advantage of the money, then each person would receive $3.

Rauwerdink told me when she first began becoming an advocate that the funding was significantly higher.

She says that she has seen firsthand what this disease can do. She lost her mother to Alzheimer’s in 2005 and knows how hard it can be on a person.