Guardianship Abuse and Neglect and How to Protect Your Loved OneWhen an adult is in need of a guardian, this is usually due to the fact that there are incapacitated in some way.  A person in this position is vulnerable as they often cannot make important decisions for themselves and may be limited in their ability to advocate for their needs.  Therefore, their guardian is in a position of extreme trust and responsibility.  Unfortunately, there are circumstances where a guardian may abuse or neglect the person they are charged with protecting.  At these times it is important to recognize when a guardian is abusing their position and take action to protect your loved one.

What is a guardian?

In Michigan, a guardian is a person appointed by the probate court who is charged with looking out for another person’s personal care needs including where they reside and receive medical care and matters such as their food or clothing.  A person is usually appointed a guardian after a family member or other concerned individual contacts the probate court and informs the court that the person is not able to care for themselves any longer.  From there the court will investigate and, if appropriate, appoint a guardian to the person. The guardian is frequently a family member but, if none can be agreed upon or located, the court may appoint another person.  A person in the guardianship position has to right to charge reasonable fees for their services which are often paid from the person’s resources. Regardless of who the guardian may be, all guardians must look out for the best interest of the person they have been appointed to serve.

Signs of Guardianship Abuse and Neglect

One indication that a guardian is abusing their position is when the person under the guardianship is showing signs that they are not receiving proper medical, nutritional, or hygiene care.  For example, if you loved one begins to lose weight quickly, has wounds or other medical conditions which appear unattended, or does not look like they have been bathing regularly, these may be signs your loved one’s guardian is not performing their job.  Additionally, if your loved one’s home is not in a hygienic condition or does not have adequate food, their guardian may be neglecting their care.  Further, your loved one missing important medical appointments may also be a sign of guardianship neglect.

Individuals residing alone in their homes as well as in assisted living settings may be isolated from loved ones.  Therefore, it is important to visit your loved one in person in order to determine if all of their personal care needs are being met.  It is also important that you maintain contact with your loved one’s caregivers, medical providers, and anyone else who is in a position to detect if they are not receiving proper care.

Taking Action

If you suspect your loved one’s guardian is not performing their duties, you can petition the probate court to have that person removed.  There are also emergency legal measures which can be taken to remove a guardian immediately while the case is pending before the court.

As with most legal actions, removing and appointing a replacement guardian can be very involved.  Therefore, it is crucial that you have the information and evidence you need to present to the court.  We have experience with guardianship law and can provide you with the advice you need in order to advocate for your loved one.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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