Inside Brian Wilson's Health Struggles and Dementia Diagnosis

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson is considered one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century, lauded for spearheading the Beach Boys' rise to fame in the 1960s and credited with writing hits like "Surf City," "I Get Around" and "Good Vibrations."

However, Wilson has also publicly struggled with his physical and mental health over the years, including substance abuse issues, a mid-flight nervous breakdown that saw him pull out of a tour with the Beach Boys in 1964 and long stretches spent confined to a bed.

Although he eventually found stability with the help of his second wife, Melinda Ledbetter, her death in January 2024 revealed new health concerns that prompted those close to him to seek a conservatorship. Court documents indicate that Wilson has a "neurocognitive disorder" and is taking medication for dementia.

Related: Beach Boys' Brian Wilson's Wife, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, Dead at 77

Wilson's role in the Beach Boys will be detailed in the new Disney+ documentary film, The Beach Boys, which begins streaming May 24. Wilson has not joined bandmates Mike Love and Bruce Johnston to promote the new flick, although he did show up to the premiere of the movie, where he received a rousing standing ovation, on May 21.

What's going on with his health? Here's what we know about Brian Wilson's dementia diagnosis, as well as other health issues he's endured over the years.

What's going on with Brian Wilson?

Beach Boys founding member Wilson was recently placed in a conservatorship. According to a doctor's statement included in court documents obtained by Deadline,  Wilson has a "major neurocognitive disorder,” is taking medication for dementia and “is unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter.” A judge named Wilson's publicist, Jean Sievers, and manager, LeeAnn Hard, co-conservators in a May ruling. The two longtime associates of Wilson jointly filed for the conservatorship in February following the death of Wilson's wife, Melinda Ledbetter, in January.

The judge stipulated that Wilson's family must be consulted regarding major medical decisions. Wilson has seven children, daughters Wendy and Carnie with his first wife, Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, and Dakota Rose, Daria Rose, Delanie Rose, Dylan and Dash, whom he adopted with Ledbetter.

Related: Beach Boys' Brian Wilson Placed in Conservatorship 4 Months After Wife's Death

Does Brian Wilson have dementia?

Yes. A doctor's statement included in recent court documents notes that Wilson was taking medication for dementia and had a "major neurocognitive disorder." The documents were part of a petition for conservatorship filed by the musician's publicist, Jean Sievers, and manager, LeeAnn Hard, after his wife, Ledbetter, died in January. In an email to the New York Times, Sievers and Hard confirmed that Wilson has been diagnosed with dementia.

When did Brian Wilson get diagnosed with dementia?

It's unclear. News that Wilson had a "major neurocognitive disorder" and was taking medication for dementia became public in May, when Deadline obtained court documents related to a conservatorship two longtime associates of the Beach Boys star filed for after his wife died in January. However, the records did not list dates of diagnosis. Sievers and Hard confirmed in an email to the New York Times Wilson had been diagnosed with dementia but did not share a timeline either.

Wilson last performed in concert on July 26, 2022 at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Michigan. According to The Oakland Press"[Wilson] struggled on and off the stage with a walker, and throughout the show he sat rigid and expressionless, barely acknowledging the audience or his band members but hopefully taking in the music and the exuberant reception for it." Carnie Wilson appeared on the podcast BeachBoys Talk in January 2023 and told the hosts her father was "probably not going to tour anymore, which is heartbreaking."

Did Brian Wilson have hearing loss?

Yes. Wilson's family learned he had significant hearing impairment in his right ear during a holiday recital. Wilson was 11 years old at the time. It's unclear what caused the loss, but it could have been an injury or congenital abnormality.

How old is Brian Wilson?

Wilson was born on June 20, 1942, making him 81 years old. He is the eldest Wilson brother and a founding member of the iconic group the Beach Boys. His younger brothers, Dennis and Carl, were also in the group and pre-deceased him. Dennis died from drowning in 1983, and Carl died from complications of lung cancer in 1998.

When was Brian Wilson bedridden?

Wilson remained in bed for stretches during the 1970s as a result of his long-standing issues with mental health and substance abuse.

Wilson now has dementia. A doctor's statement in recent court documents noted that Wilson is "unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter." However, it has not been reported that he is currently bedridden.

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