By: Bruce Holroyd
My name is Bruce Holroyd. Earlier this year, I became the Ambassador to Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington’s Second Congressional District. In this role, I will be working with the Washington State Chapter to keep Rep. Larsen’s office updated as to the dementia needs of his constituency. I am also working to increase membership on our Alzheimer’s Congressional Team.
I have been married 32 years to my wife Kathleen and we have two adult children — Rebecca, who is a school psychologist in Cincinnati and a son, David, who is an energy auditor at a new start-up company in Boston. I was employed for almost 33 years at Eastman Kodak/Kodak Alaris companies in various roles from software engineering to product marketing and management. I retired in 2016 to start my own company called Digital Scan Solutions. I have been an Alzheimer’s advocate for over 20 years.
My wife and I were born, raised and lived our entire lives in Rochester, N.Y. About 10 years ago, we started a long-term project to look around the country to see if there is someplace we would rather be to spend the next chapter of our lives at. After visiting seven or eight other states, we decided to pull up roots in Rochester and move to Anacortes, Wash. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we were able to quickly sell our home and spend the next seven months living in our trailer as we crossed the country visiting many state and national parks and visiting with friends and relatives along the way. We arrived in Anacortes in August and continued to live in our trailer until our new home was completed. We are enjoying our new life here in Western Washington and have reestablished my scanning business here in Anacortes.
How I became an advocate
We first got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association in 1997, when my wife and I were noticing changes in her mother that we could no longer blame on grief due to the loss of her husband in late 1995. We first sought out the Association for information about dementia, looking for information on where to get help, what steps to take, etc. as we were getting no support from her mother’s physician.
As we learned more about Alzheimer’s, we became more proactive to get her mother the help and diagnosis that she needed. My wife and I joined a support group, participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, etc. A few years later, we were seeing memory issues with my dad. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000. At that point, my wife and I were the caregivers for her mother and my father, while raising our young family — the true sense of the sandwich generation!
Over the years, I got involved with the Association’s advocacy effort to get support from state and federal governments for the growing population in our country that is living with the disease and their caregivers. I have raised awareness that the amount of money being spent on research to end it is not nearly enough. We needed, as a country, to put a bigger emphasis on fighting the disease as the cost to the country is much more than we could handle in the future.
We have many family members that currently have or have died from dementia. My mother-in-law, father, great aunt and the husband of my father’s cousin all died from Alzheimer’s. Currently, I’m the caregiver for my father’s youngest brother (he never married nor had children) and my aunt, both of whom have Alzheimer’s disease and are living in nursing homes.
What an advocate does
I’ve been involved with Alzheimer’s advocacy for about 20 years now. As a long-term caregiver for multiple family members that have the disease, we quickly learned they lose the ability to communicate and advocate for themselves and need someone else to do so for them. We quickly learned that we needed to communicate not only to their doctors, nurses and aides, but to our government officials — our Senators, Representatives and local and state officials — as we were seeing more and more people around us being diagnosed with dementia. I would write letters to the editor, support the Association at their Walks at their advocacy tables, and join the local Chapter’s advocacy team.
I was asked in 2013 if I would be interested in becoming the Association’s Ambassador to Senator Schumer of New York. I said, “Yes, I would be honored to.” As Ambassador to Senator Schumer, I would stay in touch with not only his Washington D.C. office, but also his office around New York. I would try to visit each one of them at least once yearly, making sure they knew what the latest need was to support our cause, and to answer any questions they may have. As the Ambassador, I would write letters to the editor in the various newspapers around the state, asking Senator Schumer to work to increase research funding and to support those with the disease and their caregivers.
Every year, all the Ambassadors would gather in Washington D.C. to “turn the hill purple” at Advocacy Forum, as we met with our Representatives and Senators. I’ve been attending these forums for the last 10+ years. We also attended an Advocacy Day in our state capital each year, meeting with our State Representatives, letting them know what they can do to help the cause. I’d also attended press conferences with our various elected officials to represent the Association and our cause. At one being held by Senator Schumer, I was asked to speak about the Association’s reaction to a bill being pushed by the Senator and how it would affect those with the disease. It was passed into law in 2018.
Why become an advocate?
It’s a rewarding opportunity to make your message loud and clear to our elected officials in a place other than the ballot box. It energizes you to see that advocating to our elected officials is making a difference and we’re on our way to a dementia-free world! When I first started, the federal government only spent about $400 million for research to find a cure; now with the help of thousands of other advocates, we’ve increased that to over $3.2 billion!
The more voices we have talking about dementia in Washington D.C. and Olympia, the quicker we will get the support that this population needs and the quicker we will find the cure for the disease and make it a memory of the past.
Congress and the state legislature have taken many steps toward ending Alzheimer’s disease, but there is plenty more work that needs to be done. You can support the promise of care and support for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias by attending one of our public policy Town Halls. Please register below and then join us online in November — your voice matters!
Learn more and register at alzwa.org/townhalls.