How Can We Protect Our Brother from His Own Neglect?

 In Special Needs Planning
senior protective services

Photo by Izzy Park on Unsplash


My youngest brother is a lost soul – lives by himself, hasn’t worked in 20+ years, has no friends or activities that I’m aware of, and supports himself (barely) with money he inherited from my sister and father. He is 62 and refuses to let himself be classified as disabled so he could get income and other benefits (housing, etc.). I don’t know if he collects Social Security. (If he does, it’s likely to be minimal). He qualifies for – and has – health insurance through Medicaid. We’re worried about what will happen if he has a major illness or injury, or if he simply outlives his savings and investments.

Can you suggest any Federal, state, municipal, or private agencies or individuals who we could talk to? There must be other people in similar situations.


Unfortunately, your brother’s situation is not all that unusual and it’s difficult to intervene unless and until matters get much worse. This is because everyone is deemed competent to make their own decisions and run their own lives unless a court determines they’re legally incompetent and appoints a guardian or conservator. The bar for such a declaration is high since it involves taking away the individual’s right to manage their own finances and make their own decisions.

If your does become ill and is hospitalized, then he’ll end up in the “system” and services will be provided, at least to the extent as necessary for his discharge from the hospital. It definitely helps that your brother already has health coverage through Medicaid. I think your only option is to wait until you think his situation has deteriorated to the point where your brother’s at risk and to call elder protective services for your brother’s county or state. They should investigate any report of neglect and offer services. Ultimately, if they determine your brother is at risk they could initiate guardianship or conservatorship proceedings. One advantage of letting a state agency take this step is that you’re less likely to be blamed for it by your brother than if you hired a lawyer and sought a protective order.

  • Laura

    Unfortunately in many locations, there is zero housing support for an adult without children. There might be some elder subsidized housing but the monthly cost could still be out of reach.

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