California Elder Law Attorneys on Recognizing Early Signs of Dementia in Older Loved Ones

Although there is no cure for dementia, there are certain treatments that may help to slow down the progression of the disease and make life easier for the senior and his or her caregivers. However, dementia must be caught early for treatments to have a significant impact, which is why it’s important that everyone is aware of the early signs that may present themselves in older loved ones. The following four signs are most commonly noticed in early-stage dementia: 

Personality Changes and Mood Swings

Dementia can cause mood changes, such as severe depression or sudden mood swings. Since dementia is a cognitive impairment which affects the ability to make good judgement, it can also cause those suffering from it to act very different and out of character. Monitoring for personality changes and uncommon mood swings could help you notice dementia in a loved one earlier. 


Many seniors with dementia suffer from confusion, which often leads to agitation. An early warning sign of dementia is constant repetition, as seniors afflicted by dementia often repeat things they’ve said just minutes after they’ve already said them. You may also want to be on the lookout for items being put in strange places, like car keys or a purse put in the refrigerator or the oven. 

Getting Lost

If a senior seems to get lost more and more often while driving, this could be a big warning sign that they may have dementia – and that access to the car should be taken away. Key warning signs include getting confused and lost while driving in familiar areas, as well as not recognizing familiar landmarks or knowing where those landmarks are located. In addition, you may want to test whether the senior has difficulty following task-based directions, such as cooking from a well-known recipe.

Memory Loss

The most common and well-known warning sign of dementia is memory loss, and it’s also the most devastating for families. Short-term memory loss is typical of early-stage dementia, and it ties in with some of the warning signs listed above, including forgetting where they placed their keys or phone or what they ate earlier that day. Failing to recognize family members like a spouse, children, or grandchildren typically occurs in later stage dementia, though you should still be on the lookout if the senior has trouble recalling names or calls family members by other names.

If one of your senior family members is suffering from dementia, or if you have noticed one or more of these warning signs in a senior family member, please contact our office at 800-244-8814 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation.

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