In all humor there is a shred of truth, and Mark Twain was a master at using humor to cut straight to the truth of just about any situation. The following quote by Twain seems especially astute: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”

The frightening truth is that as we age we become vulnerable. As the body fails we have to set aside our pride and rely on others for help. But the truly frightening prospect is the possibility that our mind may fail as well. We begin to doubt our memories, and technological advances outstrip our abilities to keep up with them. With this vulnerability comes the opportunity for abuse.

Unfortunately, elder abuse is becoming more and more common. Seniors are a growing class of individuals with money in savings or retirement, and there is no shortage of scam artists looking to take advantage of them financially. The truly sad fact is that most financial elder abuse is committed by someone close to the victim, a person in whom they have placed their trust. In such cases, the abuse may not be pre-meditated, but that in no way makes the abuse acceptable.

The good news is that there are ways to guard against financial abuse. The California Bankers Association has published an excellent list of tips to help prevent elder financial abuse and significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim, and your estate planning attorney can help you with many of them.

If you think that someone you know may be the victim of elder abuse, either physically or financially, you can help. The National Center on Elder Abuse has a help hotline, as well as a list of warning signs, and community outreach opportunities.