The daughter of the late iconic radio DJ, Casey Kasem, is fighting for new guardianship laws that would prevent future instances of elder abuse and neglect similar to what her father endured in his final days. Kerri Kasem has gone on record as saying that she feels like her father’s death could have been prevented if she and her siblings were able to see their father and better monitor his care. Unfortunately, at the time that they needed it there was no law in place to help.
Case of Casey Kasem
When Casey Kasem’s health deteriorated, his current wife and stepmother to his adult children decided to move him from the assisted living facility where he was being cared for to an undisclosed location. When his children finally got the court to compel her to release his location, he was found on an Indian reservation in poor health. He was suffering from bed sores, a urinary tract infection, and sepsis.
Sadly, Mr. Kasem died a short time later from his many medical issues. Even in death, he got no peace. His wife moved his body from the United States to Canada and eventually to Norway where he was buried without an autopsy ever being performed. Since then, the Kasem children have urged that elder abuse charges be filed against their stepmother for her mistreatment of Casey Kasem.
Previous Guardianship Laws
Until recently, not a single state had laws in place that would provide specific protection to family members of loved ones who were under court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship to make sure that they could remain in contact with their parent. In fact, the person named guardian or conservator was placed in charge of all visitation and contact between the incompetent parent and the children and could deny contact entirely. In 48 states, this is still the case.
This can be particularly at issue when the family is comprised of second or third marriages and children from multiple parents. The spouse is usually named as the decision maker for their ailing loved one, and if the children from a prior marriage do not get along with the current spouse, contact can be cut off completely. In the Kasems’ case, it required Kerri Kasem to go to court and get named conservator in her stepmother’s place in order to finally see her father.
New Guardianship Laws
Kerri Kasem created the Kasem Cares Foundation to promote the legislation of new guardianship laws that would prevent these issues from arising. The purpose of the new guardianship laws are to protect communication and visitation between an incompetent parent and their relatives. In April, Iowa became the first state to adopt such laws, and Texas legislated something similar last month. California, Nevada, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan have also shown interest in passing similar laws.
In Iowa, the new guardianship laws implement rights to foster visitation and communication between relatives and incompetent individuals. In Texas, the law went one step further and now requires guardians to keep family members informed of important developments such as hospital admissions, change in residence, the death of the individual, and funeral arrangements.