Casey Kasem was known mostly for his long and illustrious career in radio. Almost everyone remembers his years on “American Top 40” or hearing him as the voice of Shaggy in the cartoon, Scooby Doo. However, his final years on earth also left his fans with a cautionary tale about caregiving and the problems that can arise.
During the last couple of years of his life, Casey Kasem’s family was torn about his caregiving needs. On one side were his children from his first marriage, and on the other side was his second wife. Their bickering led to very public court battles, and it culminated in his wife moving Kasem without telling his children of his location. In the end, one of his children was appointed his custodian, and thankfully his entire family was able to see him before he passed.
Family Conflict and Caregiving
Family conflict over issues of caregiving is a common problem in estate planning and elder law offices. Typically, most conversations regarding caregiving occur too late, and they only happen after a person in the family is in need of serious care. When the caregiving conversation happens too late oftentimes the person in need is no longer in the position to contribute to the decision making process about their own care.
As a result, family battles arise and questions about long-term financial needs are often at the forefront of the conversation. In most cases, the spouse is considered the primary decision maker for medical and financial choices; however, without certain documents like a medical and durable power of attorney, living will, and advance directive family members will fight for the right to make caregiving decisions.
Having the C.A.R.E. Conversation
The 40/70 rule, also known as the caregiving conversation rule, states that when a child reaches forty years old or a parent reaches seventy, whichever comes first, the conversation about long-term care and end of life decisions needs to occur. The C.A.R.E. acronym is a step by step instruction on how to have the caregiving conversation:
· C: Create the conversation. Using stories such as Casey Kasem can be a great icebreaker when bringing up long-term care wishes.
· A: Acknowledge wishes. While as the caregiver you may think that you know best it is important to acknowledge the long-term care and end of life wishes of your loved one. The conversation goes best when it is approached as a partnership or collaboration for what the parent wants and needs.
· R: Review all documentation. Review all legal, financial, and personal documents for your parent. Ensure that all of their wishes are fully documented and that all documentation is up to date.
· E: Engage the entire family. Make sure that all family members are involved in the conversation about the long-term care and end of life wishes of your loved one. Explaining why certain choices were made and ensuring that everyone feels included in the process can avoid future problems before they happen.
The added trauma of family squabbles can hasten a loved one’s demise by causing undue stress in an already difficult situation. Casey Kasem’s legacy has taught us that it is important to have the caregiving conversation, and have it early, to ensure that the issues faced by his family do not happen to ours.