Can you imagine not being notified if your parent had been injured, fell ill or had even passed away? With a recently increasing occurrence across the country, state representatives are proposing changes to ensure children have visitation rights to ailing parents.
Fox News shared Catherine Falk’s story in an article titled“'Columbo' daughter pushes for bill that protects the right to visit sick parents.” The daughter of Peter Falk, a five-time Emmy Award winner as Lt. Columbo, laughs as she recalls memories about her funny father, like forgetting about Christmas presents they had given him after he had put them in the trunk of his car, only to find them all there still the next year. But when he got sick, it was no laughing matter. Catherine claims she was kept out of the details of her father’s condition, including being able to see or talk to him. Thousands of adult children in America are finding themselves going through a similar experience.
In Falk’s case, she and her stepmother were locked in a court battle over conservatorship and access to Peter for years. In 2008, he became completely incapacitated from his advanced dementia. Catherine then decided to create the Catherine Falk Organization, which advocates for the rights of adult children to see their sick parents.
Catherine was able to get an order for visitation from a court that was made at the complete discretion of the judge. Conservators in California currently don’t have to inform family members on the health, hospitalization or death of a relative. Part of the problem, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto said is the frequent tension between the second or third spouse and the children of the first marriage. That conflict often gets worse when a parent becomes sick. (Remember Casey Kasem?)
Current California law gives the rights relating to the care of loves ones to the spouse. Children have no legal way to arrange visitation with their ailing parents, to receive notice of hospitalization or even the death of their mom or dad. Children also have no access to information on the funeral arrangements.
Gatto’s bill, if passed, seeks to reverse the law and create a new legal process for adult children to ask the court to visit a parent under care who is not in a conservatorship. The Assemblyman thinks it will pass and hopes this law will be a blueprint for other states considering similar measures to help ailing seniors.
Contact an experienced elder law attorney who can help make arrangements to keep the family peace should that time come for your family.
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Reference: Fox News (June 7, 2015) “'Columbo' daughter pushes for bill that protects the right to visit sick parents”