“It cost me $400,000 to see my father,” Kerri Kasem recalled recently as she rushed to catch a flight to New Mexico and testify before the Legislature in Santa Fe. Her Kasem Cares Foundation is backing a bill she said would make it easier for friends and relatives to visit ailing elders.
“I don’t want others to go through what we went through,” says Kasem, 43, “emotionally and financially.”
On the same day, Catherine Falk, 44, was heading to Utah and a legislative appearance to promote a similar visitation bill supported by the Catherine Falk Organization.
Though Falk and Kasem work independently, they’ve become a powerful one-two punch for reforming visitation laws, stumping for change in more than 30 states. Falk says her proposed legislation is now being considered in 10 states; Kasem’s bill has already been adopted in three — California, Iowa and Texas.
The two agree their efforts are getting notice because of their celebrity fathers, and have little problem with such an advantage. “This isn’t the Casey Kasem Bill, or the Mickey Rooney Bill, or the B.B. King Bill,” Kasem said, referring to other personalities who went through similar elder battles. “It’s the Visitation Rights Bill, and it affects thousands in the U.S.”
Kasem and Falk are contacted regularly by people with horror stories to share, such as the Colorado woman who described her mother’s common-law husband as an abusive alcoholic who prevented the rest of the family from seeing her, then beat her. The mother ended up in a rehab facility after a fall and the daughter was not allowed to visit. Not long after, the daughter learned her mother had died.
Though the coroner was called, she said, there was no autopsy and her mother’s body was cremated.
“I do not know where her remains are,” the woman said.
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