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When you cherish your mom or dad, it’s hard to see him or her gradually decline due to age-related dementia. After all, this is the person who taught you how to use a spoon, ushered you through the terrible tweens and helped you get started in life.

So, how do you decide it’s time to suddenly go to court and formally take away their autonomy? It’s such a reversal of the parent-child relationship that it’s hard for a lot of people to think about.

Here are some of the signs that you need to take official action to protect your parent from his or her dementia or other disorder:

  • Your parent has forgotten food on the stove and/or started a kitchen fire due to forgetfulness
  • His or her dietary habits have declined and he or she is mostly eating snacks
  • Your parent shows evidence of sundowner’s syndrome (increased confusion or problems around dusk) and is belligerent
  • He or she wanders, especially near roads or in unsafe areas looking for long ago places or people
  • Your parent has been victimized by scam artists, especially obvious scams like the online “Nigerian Prince” who offers great wealth for just a small fee
  • Clutter, including old newspapers, mail and other trash are piling up and creating a safety hazard
  • Bills, including utilities, are going unpaid, despite the money being in the bank
  • He or she refuses in-home care or makes unfounded accusations about any nurses or aides that do come
  • He or she has grown increasingly hostile, suspicious and paranoid about everyone, including relatives and long-time friends or neighbors

When you see these kinds of signs, it’s clear that disaster is on the horizon.

It’s still difficult to approach a parent who you know is going to be unwilling to cede control of his or her life to you about the need for a change, but applying for guardianship or conservatorship is honestly the most loving thing you can do.