The topic of elder visitation is receiving attention in Washington State, thanks to the daughters of two late celebrities. The Seattle Times describes their separate but similar stories and quests for legal action, aimed at easing the process for family and friends who wish to visit ailing elders.
Kerri Kasem is the daughter of radio personality, Casey Kasem and Catherine Falk is the daughter of actor, Peter Falk. Both fathers had serious illnesses prior to their passing and both daughters had to take legal action to see them, due to family disputes and personal disagreements. Both describe the legal processes they endured as lengthy, unnecessary, and expensive.
In multiple states, both women have been separately advocating for elder visitation and pursuing legislation in their fathers’ memories.
Casey Kasem had dementia and prior to his 2014 death there was a lengthy and strenuous legal battle over his care between his second wife and his adult children from a previous marriage. Kerri Kasem was quoted as saying “Everyone who loved my father was kept from him”. She has introduced legislation in 11 other states, lobbied for a successful bill in Iowa, and is now proposing bills in Washington State.
Peter Falk became disabled by Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 and his daughter Catherine had to fight legal battles with his second-wife in order to win occasional visits prior to his passing. Catherine Falk has introduced legislation in more than 20 states this year.
In Washington, Falk and Kasem are taking different approaches with their proposals and thus far have mixed levels of support. Opponent do not believe new legislation is necessary, stating there are already adequate protections in place for vulnerable adults.
Falk’s bill (Senate Bill 6235) tackles the issue of guardians restricting visits with others. This bill says a guardian can’t restrict an incapacitated person’s right to visit and communicate with anyone. Consent is presumed based on history and positive relationships. Visitation can be blocked by the guardian with good cause only and would also require guardians to inform close relatives if there are significant changes in the status of the incapacitated person (a move, hospitalization, death, etc.). Her bill assumes family disagreements can be settled through law enforcement and other avenues, so addresses incapacitated people only.
Kasem’s bill (House Bill 2401) allows individuals to petition the court for visitation rights. She is also behind House Bill 2402, which necessitates guardians to inform close friends and relatives if an elder hospitalized for a significant period of time or passes away. Kasem’s bill includes visitation for everyone and is not exclusive to incapacitated people. She said no one helped with her family dispute.
Kasem and Falk are passionate about legislative reform on this issue and seek to bring the flaws in the system to the limelight.