An 85-year-old man is accused of kidnapping his wife from a nursing home and taking her to Florida, where they lived for nearly a year before authorities found them.

Joseph Perez has been charged with kidnapping for taking his wife from Father Murray Nursing Center in January. They lived in Florida until about Nov. 1, when a Medicaid claim tipped off police, authorities said.

"We're looking out for the best interests of the alleged victim," prosecutor John Latella said.

Latella said Perez had been a guardian for his wife, who is about the same age, for several years but was stripped of that designation because of how he cared for her. She was later placed in the nursing home.

But defense lawyer Azhar Sheikh criticized the prosecutor's office, saying Perez was charged too harshly. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

"This is an extremely sad case," Sheikh said. "He was just trying to help his wife. He doesn't belong in jail. This man needs to get some help. He cares for his wife. He wanted to take care of her and did nothing to harm her."

Perez is being held in the Macomb County Jail, while his wife is living in their Warren home under full-time care.