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Uranium-lead dating methods often use this approach because some of the minerals used in dating lose the lead decay products over time.
It's amazing how often people fail to realize that you can't date materials if they don't have the necessary ingredients. You can't use carbon-14 to date an arrowhead with no carbon in it.
So: The general approach to assessing gain or loss is to look at the isotope abundances in different minerals and see if there's a pattern.
If the decay constant is very small, even tiny amounts of contamination by other radioactive materials can be very significant.Imagine we have an undiscovered element, Parentium, that has a radioactive isotope, Parentium-123, which decays to stable Daughterium-123.This is the only way Parentium-123 decays, and there is no other source of Daughterium-123.If the rocks have an interbedded lava flow or volcanic ash bed, it's gold.
The older our sample is, the more daughter isotope it will contain relative to the parent.
So accurate determinations require very pure samples, very accurate and selective detectors, or both.