For many older adults, retaining their independent mobility and living status is a source of personal pride. However, there are many situations in which an older loved one may want to remain on their own but is clearly no longer capable of doing so. When that happens, family members may find themselves in the difficult position of needing to intervene.

Thankfully, state laws in New York allow for loved ones to seek guardianship of older adults if they can no longer handle the responsibilities and tasks of independent living. Learning a little bit more about warning signs of health issues that can lead to dangerous scenarios for your loved one is a good first step if you think guardianship may be in the future for your family.

Family histories often provide warning signs

Have family members in previous generations struggled with degenerative health conditions or dementia? If so, that may call for increased monitoring as your loved one ages. For example, Alzheimer’s disease can run in families. While the family history does not definitively show that someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease, it does increase the risk.

Knowing some of the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including chronic forgetfulness of important things, difficulty focusing on basic tasks and frequent feelings of confusion, can help you know if your loved one may be experiencing cognitive decline. These symptoms can come and go, but will typically get worse over time.

If you suspect this may be occurring, your first step should be to seek medical evaluation of your loved one. A health care provider can help you determine if the issues are related to a serious concern.

Document everything so that you can prove why guardianship is necessary

Once you begin to suspect that your loved one is in cognitive decline, you should take careful notes. Medical records can certainly help bolster your case, but evidence from daily life that your loved one is struggling with completing basic tasks can also help. Take notes of incidents of forgetfulness, personality changes or confusion that include the date, the time and what occurred.

This documentation, combined with medical corroboration, can help you ask the courts to intervene. Guardianship benefits your loved one by protecting them from the mistakes and judgment often associated with mental incapacitation. From the ability to make sound medical decisions to financial concerns, guardianship allows you to protect your loved one.

While it may be uncomfortable to remove some of the autonomy your loved one, no doubt, cherishes, guardianship is, at its core, intended to protect the vulnerable. If you don’t believe it is safe or reasonable for your loved one to live independently or make medical decisions for themselves, guardianship maybe the best solution.