Assessing the Needs of an Aging Loved One – Driving, Mail & Finances


If you have an elderly relative or neighbor, have you ever asked yourself   “When should I start to worry? What should I be looking for?”  How will I know?”   This Assessment Series will identify 8 categories to help you recognize when you should be concerned, and some things to look for that may give you a hint that help is needed.  

This week we are focused on 3 of them, Driving, Mail & Finances

For many of these questions, all you have to do is keep your eyes open. The money management section, may require more careful and tactful questioning. This is where many of our clients ask for the support from LifeLinks to explain to your loved one why it is important to discuss.

In general, you’re looking for signs of change from past behavior — Are they behaving differently from their past normal patterns? If you do notice a problem: 

  • Talk it over with the older adult first, expressing your concern in a tactful, nonjudgmental way.
  • Express your concern, but don’t over-react.
  • Depending on what you hear, you may also need to talk to other family members, close friends, or the older adult’s physician.

Remember that there could be a variety of explanations for many of these problems, including simple loss of mobility, physical limitations, chronic pain, vision or other sensory losses, confusion due to medication problems, depression, or possibly dementia. Help may be needed, but the person may still be able to continue living independently once problems are identified and supports are in place. Don’t panic!


Driving skill can be impaired by vision loss, early-stage dementia, or other neurological problems that impair concentration.
• Examine the car for recent dents or scrapes
•Let them drive when you go somewhere that is familiar to them. Do you feel safe? Any close calls or unusual variations in speed? Any signs of confusion about where to go?

For more information on this, read our article: At What Age Should My Parents Stop Driving?


A casual glance around can sometimes be very telling in terms of lost organizational skills or possible depression or anxiety that results in avoidance.
•Are there stacks of unsorted mail?
•Are bills and other important correspondence mixed in with outdated junk mail?
•Are there an unusual number of sweepstakes entry forms or charitable or political solicitation letters? (This can be a hint that an older adult is being taken in by fraudulent or deceptive marketing or has been responding to telephone solicitations for money.)

Paying bills and managing money:

This can be a little harder without asking prying questions or looking at bank statements, but you may see evidence or hear stories about services getting cut off, or hassles with the bank.
•Are the utility bills getting paid on time? Rent or mortgage payments?
•Is the checkbook balanced?
•Any signs of overdrafts?
•Are there a lot of credit card bills? Are payments being made?


To continue this series, head to Part 2: Housekeeping, Meal Prep and Personal Care




Erin is a Care Manager and advocate with more than 30 years experience working with senior adults; she’s worked as a charge nurse in long term care facilities, an advocate and outreach nurse to at-risk/homeless elderly, private duty home-care, communications manager for a Medicare peer review organization, and as an Aging & Eldercare Program Manager at SAS Institute. Her experience also includes marketing and healthcare education for Hospice of Wake County (now Transitions LifeCare).