I did not want to control his estate. I did not want to dictate his medical care. I just wanted to be with him when he needed me.

Share story

After my father, Casey Kasem, passed away on June 15, 2014, I have received hundreds of letters from people across the country who had to endure a similar pain to mine. I am grateful that the issues of isolation and visitation with the elderly are getting a lot of positive attention.

In July 2013, my stepmother began preventing all of my father’s loved ones from visiting with or speaking to him. A very public legal battle regarding my father’s health and our rights to be with him ensued. Although my father repeatedly said that he wanted to visit with me and my siblings, the law in California did not recognize this basic right.

I was forced to place my father in a conservatorship, which is the California term for guardianship, just to see my father. I did not want to control his estate. I did not want to dictate his medical care. I just wanted to be with him when he needed me. It is because of my struggle and the struggles of the hundreds of people sending me letters that I decided to form the Kasem Cares Foundation to fight for each state in this nation to recognize this fundamental right.

As the article in The Seattle Times pointed out, [“Daughters of Casey Kasem, Peter Falk tackle elder visitation in Washington state,” Local News, Jan. 31] there are two children of celebrities who have proposed bills to the Legislature this session. The other bill has been proposed by Catherine Falk, daughter of Peter Falk. Although Catherine Falk and I have similar stories, and although we share the same goals, there are significant differences between our two bills.

HB 2401, proposed by the Kasem Cares Foundation, declares a broad right for everyone. The bill begins, “The legislature finds that every adult in this state has the right to visit with, and receive mail, telephone, and electronic communication from, whomever he or she so chooses.” Such a broad statement of the right is essential because isolation is a crime that is committed by many perpetrators.

In my case, as was the case with Catherine Falk, the person blocking our visitation rights was a second spouse. Such people can include family members, caregivers, lawyers or guardians as well. In order to combat this, there must be a law that applies equally to everybody.

SB 6235, proposed by Falk, however, takes a narrower approach. It only applies when a person has a guardian. Thus, this bill would not have helped either Falk nor me in obtaining the right to visit with our fathers and would allow guardians to actually restrict visitation. Falk, like myself, was forced to put her father into a conservatorship just to visit with him, which comes with astronomical court costs. Since Falk’s bill only applies to guardianships, it would require petitioners in Washington to do the same — file guardianship petitions just to enforce their rights to visit with their parents. Visitation should not just be for the 1 percent.

Guardianship abuse has become a hot-button issue across the country, and I applaud Falk for seeking to address it. However, I am concerned that her approach would make it far too easy for guardians to obtain orders barring visitation and use the ward’s assets to do so. This right of visitation should be guaranteed under the First Amendment’s right to freely associate, and there should be a much higher standard of proof to deprive an elderly person of this fundamental right.

This issue is a very important one, and any progress in this area is a step forward. It is for this reason that I decided to testify in favor of combining Falk’s bill and our legislation during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on it.

Everyone deserves the right to visitation, not just wards. The Kasem Cares Foundation will work closely with any and all people who are interested in passing meaningful legislation to end isolation. I believe that should be a broad right enjoyed by all.