If your parents are past retirement age, you probably want nothing more than their health, dignity and security as they enjoy their golden years. Unfortunately, age can take away both health and independence, especially for those who develop cognitive symptoms due to age.

Loving your parents as they get older involves supporting them and their decisions but also recognizing when they are no longer capable of making the best decisions for themselves anymore. What might at first seem like nothing more than a humorous anecdote because your loved one is getting older and more forgetful might actually be a red flag warning you that they can no longer handle their own financial and medical decisions.

If they need assistance in managing their lives, your parents might benefit from you acting as a guardian for them. How do you know when it’s time to step up into that role?

Your loved one struggles with daily functions that were once simple

Does your mother love to knit but can no longer seem to follow her patterns correctly? Has your father suddenly begun to forget what day he needs to put out the trash, even though it hasn’t changed in decades? Confusion and difficulty with the routines of life are warning signs of cognitive impairment, dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease.

Poor judgment or changes in mood and personality

Your loved one might start making decisions that are the opposite of what they might have once done. They might act impulsively, behaving more like a teenager without awareness of consequences than a mature adult.

You may also notice that they don’t want to socialize anymore or that the way they interact with others has changed. Shifts in personality and mood, as well as impaired judgment, are all warning signs of potential cognitive decline.

Your loved ones can’t recognize their own limitations

Is your loved one no longer able to safely drive but still insists on maintaining their license, paying for insurance and registering the vehicle in their name? Have they failed to pay their mortgage but insist they don’t need any sort of financial oversight?

When your loved ones can’t recognize the very real signs that they need help, they may no longer be able to act in their own best interests. You may have to make the difficult decision to seek a guardianship so that you can protect them from themselves as they continue to age.