Deborah Ruiz is a volunteer at the Alzheimers Associations Desert Southwest chapter. For her, the associations cause is personal because for the past five years her mom has lived with Lewy Body Dementia.

I said I was her daughter and she said ya right. In that moment, it hit hard, Ruiz said. I wanted to be my moms daughter instead of the caregiver.

Ruiz has noticed that with her moms condition, it has progressed and there was a dip in her memorys decline. Now she lives in a facility that cares for her.

However, her mom isnt the only person in her family who has had memory issues. Ruizs grandmother passed away from Alzheimers.

Ruiz has noticed that with Alzheimers, someone like her grandmother can have memory issues, but with Lewy Body Dementia, her mom can have hallucinations and get aggressive at times.

Its something she said can also affect her.

Its not only a difficult process for them, but you have to have the strength to be able to help them, she said.

Its that strength Ruiz has also had to rely on to help other people with memory issues as a volunteer with the Alzheimers Associations Desert Southwest Chapter in Tucson. She helps expose people with memory issues to music and art.

Its also routines because they do it every Friday. They get to see the people every week that theyre fully becoming friends with. Not only just friends, you become basically family, Ruiz said.

The Alzheimers Associations Desert Southwest Chapter does their annual Walk to End Alzheimers to support educational opportunities for caregivers and people like the ones Ruiz volunteers for.

Morgen Hartford, the associations community executive, said the association focuses on helping families recognize the early symptoms of memory conditions so that people can separate what it means to live with the condition versus what it means to age naturally.

The annual walk funds those resources for families.

In 2022, Hartford said the walk raised over $256 thousand and in 2023 they raised over $306 thousand. This year their goal is $349 thousand. Last year they raised a record $100 million nationally.

For the first time in the history of the organization, we were able to reinvest that same amount, 100 million dollars in Alzheimers research in the same year, Hartford said.

He said it also funds their 24/7 hotline for families and caregivers, which features over 200 languages.

Talk to somebody whos listening and supportive or finding more resources in their community, he said about the hotline.

This year the local Walk to End Alzheimers is in October at Reid Park. Hartford said they also do other fundraisers like riding during El Tour where 100 percent of the money raised goes towards research.

Passionate about taking care for not just her mom but also for others with memory care issues, Ruiz is now doing her thesis at the University of Arizona on how people can use typography for memory care loss. Shes determined to help others understand the diseases.

You have to push through it and be there for them because theyre not trying to hurt you. Its just the disease, Ruiz said.