Aging Options

Casey Kasem Family Controversy Prompts Preventive Legislation

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His case dominated the entertainment headlines in mid-2014. The legendary Casey Kasem, whose rock and roll radio career spanned nearly six decades, was dying – but a feud between his children and their step-mother over Kasem’s condition and whereabouts, and a complete ban on the children’s access to their dad, would spill over into the news for months.

The sad tale of family bickering dragged on week after week, growing uglier with each new revelation. It took repeated intervention by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge to force Kasem’s wife to relent in the vicious feud. In spite of the star’s death in June 2014, the bitter legal wrangling continues to this day.

Now two years after the fact, two bills before the Washington State Legislature would if passed help protect the rights of ailing seniors and hopefully prevent the nasty acrimony triggered by the sad case of Casey Kasem. The two pieces of legislation, House Bills 2401 and 2402, are simple in their intent but far reaching in their scope. Both bills are co-sponsored by Washington State Representative Linda Kochmar (R-Federal Way). One helps ensure access to an incapacitated person by loved ones while the second requires full disclosure of all aspects of the person’s care and condition.

One of the controversies surrounding the last several months of Casey Kasem involved the absolute control over access to Kasem imposed by his second wife, Jean. As Kasem’s health worsened in late 2013, Jean Kasem prevented any contact with her husband, particularly by the three adult children from his first marriage. This refusal on Jean Kasem’s part sparked demonstrations, headlines and an eventual court ruling.

In response, the first proposed law here in Washington, HB 2401, would establish a procedure to safeguard the rights of adults, ensuring that they are able to enjoy visitation from relatives and others. This would apply particularly in instances such as Kasem’s where such visits are both desirable and beneficial but are being prevented. Under HB 2401, a spouse like Jean Kasem would not have been able to keep her step-children away from their father.

The second dramatic issue that surfaced in the Casey Kasem situation involved the ailing celebrity’s condition and whereabouts. In May 2014 Jean Kasem removed her husband from a nursing home in Santa Monica, California, and told the family Kasem had been taken outside the U.S. He was later found in a nursing facility right here in Western Washington, in Gig Harbor.

Partly in response to this bizarre situation, with Kasem’s wife refusing to divulge the status of her husband, the second proposed law co-sponsored by Rep. Kochmar, HB 2402, requires transparency. Along with a long list of mandates to ensure that an incapacitated person is being adequately cared for, his or her a guardian is required to inform other relatives “as soon as reasonably possible” if the loved one is hospitalized for three days or more in an acute care facility, or if he or she dies. In case of death, the guardian must inform relatives of all funeral arrangements, something Kasem’s wife also refused to do. Instead, she had the body flown out of the country for eventual internment in Norway.

Here at Aging Options we always emphasize the importance to our clients of open, honest, constructive communication between retirees and their families. In order to minimize the likelihood of conflict and misunderstanding, it’s highly desirable that you let your adult children know your plans, dreams and wishes as you age. Sadly, however, such openness cannot guarantee that your family will escape deep disagreement. For that reason we strongly support the passage of HB 2401 and HB 2402, and we commend Rep. Kochmar and her fellow co-sponsors for their efforts to safeguard the well-being of vulnerable seniors.

There is much more to effective retirement planning than good open communication. You’ll want to get your financial plan settled and your legal affairs in order. Your plan should also include a detailed exploration of your housing options and an examination of your health care needs. It’s all part of what we call a LifePlan – and you can begin laying the groundwork for yours by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, coming to your neighborhood soon. For dates, times and registration, click on our Upcoming Events tab. We’ll look forward to meeting you.

(To find out more about the proposed laws described above, click here for HB 2401 and here for HB 2402.)

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