Dementia Warning Signs

Dementia is one of the most devastating conditions affecting seniors, resulting in an eventual loss of cognitive functions. While there is no cure for dementia or the two leading diseases that cause dementia, Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia, there are treatments that can slow the effects and help make life more manageable. In order for these treatments to be effective, dementia must be caught early. That is why Santa Barbara elder law attorneys want people in the community to know some of the more common warning signs of dementia.

Memory Loss

The most well-known component of dementia, and perhaps the most devastating to families, is memory loss. There is nothing more painful than watching a senior slowly fail to recognize grandchildren, children, or even a spouse. However, this level of memory loss typically occurs during the end stages of the disease. Early on, short-term memory loss is a key warning sign for dementia. A senior forgetting where they placed their keys or phone or what they had for breakfast earlier in the day are some of the things you should be on the lookout for.


Confusion usually goes hand-in-hand with memory loss – if a senior with dementia cannot quite remember a family member or acquaintance, they will often become confused or agitated. Constant repetition fits in with confusion and memory loss as seniors suffering from dementia will often repeat things they’ve said minutes after they’ve just said them. And, in addition to simply forgetting where they put something like keys or a phone, the senior may place those items where they don’t belong, like the refrigerator or the oven, and then forget they put them there in the first place.

Personality and Mood Shifts

Dementia can have a serious effect on a senior’s mood, ranging from depressive episodes to drastic personality shifts. Dementia is a cognitive impairment which affects one’s judgment, meaning it can cause a senior to act very differently than they have in the past. Monitoring mood and personality for shifts and changes is a good exercise if you suspect a senior to have dementia.

Difficulty with Directions

If a senior is starting to get lost more and more often while driving, it’s a warning sign that they may have dementia – and that the car keys should be taken away. Getting lost in familiar neighborhoods and not knowing where familiar landmarks are located are key warning signs, but so is a situation where the senior has difficulty following directions related to a task or job.

If you are currently caring for a senior who has dementia, or if you have seen some of these warning signs in an older family member, please contact us at (805) 946-1550 to set up a consultation with our Santa Barbara elder law attorneys to find out what options you have for approaching this disease and how to get your loved one’s affairs in order before he or she loses the ability to sign legal documents.

Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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