STYLE

New Iowa law tries to ensure adult children can visit ailing parents

04/24/2015 05:48 EDT | Updated 07/23/2015 09:59 EDT
DES MOINES, Iowa - A year after the children of radio personality Casey Kasem had to seek court action to see their ailing father, a new law in Iowa aims to ensure that adult children can see their sick parents — granting them visitation rights unless the person's guardian goes to court to stop them.

Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law Friday. Under the measure, an adult with a legal guardian — someone who cannot manage their own affairs — would have the right to receive visits from family members and others they have previously expressed interest in seeing. The legal guardian could still control factors like the time and place of the visits.

Previously, Iowa law did not address how to handle such situations, said Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat who pushed for the bill.

The legislation was backed by Kasem's daughter, Kerri Kasem, who appeared on Iowa talk radio several times advocating for the bill. Kasem, a radio show host herself who lives in Los Angeles, is pushing for similar laws in several other states and said she believes Iowa is the first to enact such a bill.

"I promise you, every single state will have what I have dubbed the visitation bill. We need guardianship laws to change. We need visitation laws to change," said Kasem. She and her siblings fought with her father's wife of more than 30 years over his care in his final days.

Lawmakers from both parties worked on the legislation, which won unanimous approval in both chambers. Hogg said he started working on the issue after hearing last year from a constituent who was having difficulty visiting her brother.

"There was a hole in Iowa's law and we are filling that with a really well-crafted piece of legislation that balances the right of visitation with the right of the guardian," Hogg said.

Kasem, the host of "American Top 40," died last June in Washington. He was 82 and suffering from dementia. Kasem's children and his second wife, former actress Jean Kasem, feuded over his care for years.

In 2013, his children filed a legal petition to gain control of his health care, alleging that Kasem was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and that his wife was isolating him from friends and family members. Last May, a judge temporarily stripped Kasem's wife of her caretaker role after she moved him from a medical facility in Los Angeles to a friend's home in Washington state.

Kerri Kasem was appointed caretaker and has said her stepmother's actions shortened Kasem's life. Jean Kasem has denied that she caused her husband harm.

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