According to a recent article in the Orange County Register, Kerri Kasem has been heavily involved in a campaign against elder abuse that aims to both educate the community and change the laws on visitation. Kasem is the daughter of Casey Kasem, the radio personality who passed away last June. Given Kerri’s concerns that her father was suffering elder abuse at the hands of his wife, Kerri began campaigning for elder abuse awareness in California.
Family Caregivers Can Be Responsible for Abuse
Back in 2013, Kerri Kasem’s father had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He had previously been residing in a nursing home, but his wife, Kerri’s stepmother, soon became his sole caregiver. At that time, Kerri’s stepmother prevented any of Casey’s children from seeing him, and she cut off the former radio personality’s contact with the outside world.
According to Kerri, “she ripped out his phone lines . . . no phone calls or emails returned . . . we couldn’t get in to see my dad, no matter what we did.” According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), caring for aging family members—particularly those with dementia—often triggers acts of abuse or neglect. Indeed, such caregiving relationships often become violent, with elderly dementia patients suffering physical harm at the hands of loved ones. In many cases the NCEA attributes this kind of elder caregiver abuse to be caused by the stress of caring for an ailing patient. More than one million elderly Americans suffer abuse from loved ones each year, according to Jennifer Ponce, a prevention education specialist with Laura’s House.
Whether or not caregiver stress plays a role in elder abuse, the patient deserves to be treated with care and respect. And emotional abuse is a serious problem for older adults who are receiving care from loved ones. As in Casey’s situation, one of the primary warning signs of emotional elder abuse is isolation. In other words, when a caregiver isolates the elder and “doesn’t let anyone in the home or speak to the elder,” it’s important to take action.
Changing the Laws Surrounding Emotional Abuse and the Elderly
In response to the emotional abuse Kerri feared her father was suffering, she filed a complaint in court. However, she soon realized that “there was no provision in California state law giving the judge the authority to rule on visitation.” Kerri eventually obtained a conservatorship, which provided her with access to her dad, but “she was outraged by the lack of legally enforceable visitation rights for the relatives of ailing adults.”
Kerri founded the Kasem Cares Foundation, which aims to prevent elder abuse and educate the community about its risks. One of Kerri’s first orders of business was to change the laws surrounding visitation. According to the article, “she proposed a visitation bill to her stepfather, attorney Robert Naylor, who collaborated with attorney Troy Martin, California senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and California assemblyman Mike Gatto to draft a bill that is now in nine state legislatures.” Since then, versions of the legislation have been passed in multiple states. In California, the State Assembly unanimously passed such a bill, and it’s currently awaiting votes by the Senate.
Kerri believes that, if such a law had been in existence two years ago, her father would still be alive today. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety or have suspicions about elder emotional abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.
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