It's a diagnosis that changed everything for Anna Claire Ryan and her family.

Eleven years ago, her mother Josephine Fitzgerald was diagnosed with a rare form of early onset dementia.

 “She was 49 when she first started to notice, and we kind of thought, ‘Oh, everyone forgets things.’ She said no, something more is going on,” Ryan said.

She and her family are among more than 600 people taking part in the 20th annual Alzheimer Society’s annual Walk for Memories.

It’s a province-wide event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and education.

The Ottawa walk was held Sunday at Carleton University.

 “100% of the proceeds go to help people in the community so this goes to help people who need support and who need education,” said Susan Paul with the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.

Nearly 750,000 Canadians are living with dementia, and that number is expected to jump to 1.4 million by 2031.

More than 15,000 people in the Ottawa and Renfrew area are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

For 60-year-old Josephine Fitzgerald’s family, the diagnosis has been overwhelming.

“(The disease) primarily affects her language, so she’s lost communication skills… now she just says a few minor words, so really it’s about body language and understanding the spirit, which is still there within her,” she said.

Ruth Clarida is also walking with them. Her mother Thelma Clarida died of Alzheimer’s disease four years ago.

“It was horrible… it was very painful to watch her deteriorate,” Clarida said. “The day that they forget you is the worst day ever… but we're strong and supporting everybody who is living through it now.”

The event raised $248,000 for Alzheimer's care. Anyone wanting to donate to the walk can do so until February 28th.