The last few weeks at my house have been a little hectic and I know that was the cause of me misplacing things. However, I've been very upset about not being able to locate some very important items - a favorite jacket, my most comfortable sandals, a well worn but much needed T-shirt, and, of course a credit card. For pity sakes, I know right where I put them all and they are not there. What is happening here?

Ever happen to you? We joke a little, but sometimes there's that burning inside just wondering a little bit if it's more serious than "just being too busy." I'm very aware when there's eight people say that one of them, when over 65 years old, will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I'm aware that every 70 seconds a new individual is diagnosed with the disease. I'm aware that more than five million Americans (94,000 Minnesotans) are living with Alzheimer's and that there are nearly 10 million more involved as their caregivers. We need to know the facts about this disease and do what we can to help.

The Brainerd Lakes Area Memory Walk is a great opportunity to help. It will be held on Sept. 25 at Kiwanis Park. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the Walk at 10 a.m. It's our opportunity to help fight this disease by supporting the research that is being done, supporting the education that is offered to communities and most importantly to offer much needed support to those individuals and their caregivers that are affected by the disease. Please join us! You can form a team with those you work with, live by, or go to church with. You can join us individually or make a donation. Please go to www.alz.org/memorywalk or contact one of the Memory Walk committee members for more information. They may be contacted at Good Samaritan Society, Diamond Willow, Edgewood Vista, Breath of Life Adult Day Care, Brainerd Lakes Health, Aitkin Health Services, Aicota Health Care Center, Lakewood Health Systems, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Carefree Living, Horizon Health Services, Guide Point Pharmacy, or Home Instead Senior Care.

In addition to getting involved in the Memory Walk, our own knowledge can help support those affected. Memory often changes as you grow older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of dementia. Dementia is a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, a fatal disorder that results in the loss of brain cells and function.

It may be hard to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer's disease. Some people may recognize changes in themselves before anyone else notices. Other times, friends and family will be the first to observe changes in the person's memory, behavior or abilities.

To help, the Alzheimer's Association has created this list of warning signs for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Individuals may experience one or more of these in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

This list can help you recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer's:

• Memory changes that disrupt daily life: One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, such as asking for the same information over and over, relying on memory aides, such as reminder notes or electronic devices or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What are typical age-related changes? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

• Challenges in planning or solving problems: Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What are typical age-related changes? Making occasional errors when balance a checkbook.

• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure: People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What are typical age-related changes? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or record a television show.

• Confusion with time or place: People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What are typical age-related changes? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What are typical age-related changes? Vision changes related to cataracts.

• New problems with words in speaking or writing: People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name, such as calling a watch a hand-clock.

What are typical age-related changes? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What are typical age-related changes? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

• Decreased or poor judgment: People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What are typical age-related changes? Making a bad decision once in a while.

• Withdrawal from work or social activities: A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What are typical age-related changes? Sometimes feeling wary of work, family and social obligations.

• Changes in mood and personality: The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What are typical age-related changes? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routing is disrupted.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs, please see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future. The Alzheimer's Association can help. Visit them at www.alz.org or call (800) 272-3900.

I need to report that all items at my house have now been found! It took thoroughly cleaning spaces I haven't been in a long time, but it was worth it. However, this memory loss thing is not a joke. Please get involved the Brainerd Lakes Area Memory Walk. With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, and nearly 10 million more serving as caregivers, the time to act is now!

DEB CRANNY is the executive director at Home Instead Senior Care in Brainerd.