She is crafting and proposing a bill in California that would allow adult children to petition probate courts to obtain an order granting visitation rights to ailing parents. Now, she wants to take her fight straight to Capitol Hill.
“This is a silent epidemic,” Kasem says in a phone interview.
Kasem and her siblings were involved in a bitter court battle with their stepmother to gain control of their father’s medical decisions when the “American Top 40” host died last month at age 82. Kasem claims, along with some of her siblings, her father’s family and best friends were all “kept away” from him. Although things have “settled down” since her dad’s death, Kasem acknowledges there was “so much drama” in the radio veteran’s final months.
“It’s not just a celebrity cause,” Kasem says, “This is happening to people all over the country. … I’m receiving hundreds of letters. … The letters keep coming in with stories, horrific stories, of people that have been blocked from their loved ones.”
The current laws in states across the country are “kind of working against the person who’s ill, and working against the family, and working against the person’s wishes,” she argues.
“There’s nothing right now on the books that allows a judge to say, ‘Let’s send a court-appointed attorney out to the ailing individual and ask if they want to see their kids.’ ”
Kasem, a radio personality herself, created the Kasem Cares Foundation to gain support for her efforts as the bill makes its way through the California Legislature. “I don’t want just people in California to have visitation, I want everybody to. I’m going to go state to state,” she says.
She says she would “100 percent love” to head to Washington to discuss elder abuse with lawmakers. Kasem says she’s even willing to set up shop in the nation’s capital to make her voice heard: “Not only do I want to come and talk about it, I would love to be just be there, even if it meant moving there for awhile, if this is something I could take federal.”
The political world isn’t completely foreign to Kasem. Her mother is a political fundraiser and her dad was “heavy into politics as well.” Of her celebrity dad, she adds with a chuckle, “But he was a bleeding heart liberal, and my mother was a staunch Republican.” She says working on the legislation has offered a quickie lesson in “learning how to get a bill pushed through, and lobbying, and understanding [it.]”
Asked what her father would think of the work she’s doing, she replied, “He’d be very, very proud of me. … I’m not stopping until this is in 50 states.”