What are the Warning Signs of Dementia?

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. There are several early 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 he/she placed his/her keys or phone or what he/she had for breakfast earlier in the day are some of the things you should monitor.


Confusion usually goes hand-in-hand with memory loss – if a senior with dementia cannot quite remember a family member or acquaintance, he 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 have said minutes after they have just said them.

And, in addition to simply forgetting where they put something like keys or a phone, the seniors may place those items where they do not 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 judgement, meaning it can cause a senior to act very differently than he has 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 often while driving, that is a warning sign they may have dementia – and that driving is a concern. 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, or if you have questions about this post, please contact us.

Author: Wayne M. Pecht, Esq.
Part of the Johnson Duffie Estate and Trust Planning Team