I was brought up in a household where we were taught to see the best in people. In most cases, giving folks the benefit of the doubt has served us well.

However, based upon a recent experience my mother had, I think being a bit more cautious, especially as we age, is warranted.

Because of her underlying risk of glaucoma, my mother visits the eye doctor every six months for a checkup. She had an appointment a few weeks ago.

After a temperature check, she proceeded to the registration desk to give her name. They told her she had a $25 copay, so my mother paid in cash.

A few moments later, a technician introduced herself and escorted my mother to the examining room for her visual field test. The test is administered in a small, darkened room.

The technician instructed my mother to place her purse on the counter behind her, which she did. The technician then positioned my mom in front of a machine and asked her to place her chin on a small ledge and her forehead on a bar.

Once she was in place, the test got underway. A short time in, the tech told my mother her purse was falling over and she was going to go fix it. The young woman got up and moved behind my mother.

After the test was complete, the tech moved my mother into another room, where she met with the doctor to go over her results.

The next day, my mother had another doctor’s appointment (the life of a senior, from one medical visit to the next), where she was told she had a $15 copay. My mother reached into her wallet to pay and found that all the cash in her wallet was missing.

Back home, later that day, my mother retraced her steps from the time she took $300 out of the ATM a few days before up until the present. She remembered paying her cleaning lady, a trip to get groceries and the $25 copay at the eye doctor. She estimated she had $100 in cash remaining in her wallet when she went for her eye appointment.

She decided to call the eye doctor’s office, which was a big step for my mother. She didn’t want to accuse anyone but wanted to know if it was possible someone in that office took her cash.

She spoke to the practice administrator, who took down her information. Two days later, the administrator called to say another long-standing patient had also complained that she was missing cash from her wallet after an exam.

It turns out the same technician had done testing on both my mother and the other patient (also a senior), and both had all their cash missing from their wallets.

A few days later, a letter arrived from the doctor’s office. In it was a $100 Visa gift card along with a note, which in part read, “Based upon the coincidence of circumstance, we dismissed the technician, who was a recent hire. I am sure this situation undermines the confidence and trust you place in us. As a manager, you take a risk in everyone you hire. You hope for the best and prepare for the downside. We apologize, and hope this solution is acceptable to you.”

My mother recounted this story to my sister and me on a conference call. While she did not say it outright, I think my mom was proud for overcoming her inherent trusting and idealistic nature to advocate for herself.

I see this unsuspecting nature often in seniors of my mother’s generation. There are studies that say the region in our brain responsible for the positive and negative “vibes” we get about people when we meet them may dissipate with age. Sadly, as in this case, seniors are often preyed upon for this very reason.

As we get older, we should remember to be a bit cautious and guarded when interacting with others. For example, my mother could have asked to keep her purse on her lap or at her feet.

While many of us want to see the good in others, we can help protect ourselves by getting comfortable with putting safeguards in place without feeling bad or rude.

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