AARP AARP States Colorado

The Caregiver's Cairn: The Kitchen Table Chat


Blog by Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. We have some serious business to chat about today. I want to broach the subject of advance directives. Wait! Don’t run out of the room or click on another link. This is important-for yourself and for your loved ones. Advance directives are not to be feared. Rather, these legal documents help to ensure that your life wishes are honored and implemented. If you love being in control, then advance directives are just the ticket.

Advance directives are legal instruments that document our preferences regarding healthcare and end-of-life care. Most of us of legal age have been advised of the importance of advance directives. And, most of us have opted not to fill out the forms. According to the California Healthcare Foundation ( in a report published in 2012, 60% of Californians surveyed don’t want their families burdened with end-of-life decisions. Yet, 56% of those persons hadn’t discussed final wishes with their families. Additionally, 82% believe documentation of end-of-life wishes is important. However, only 23% had documented their wishes. Although this report is specific to the state of California, the results reflect national attitudes and trends.

What deters us from having the needed conversations about end-of-life wishes? Why do we delay documenting our preferences for medical treatment? Fear and a false sense of security are common deterrents. We live in a death averse society. We don’t want to “go there.” It’s too frightening to consider the reality of our mortality. So, instead, we live as if we’re immortal. Maybe we don’t perceive ourselves as old enough to need advance directives. We have time, right? Or, perhaps, we don’t understand the possible consequences of not having advance directives. Whatever the reason, we assume a tremendous risk by avoiding the discussion and not documenting our wishes. We risk not having a voice in how our journey ends. We risk burdening our family and friends with some very tough decisions.

So, the invitation is this. Sit down at the kitchen table with your family and close friends. Have a life-giving chat. You can’t anticipate every possible medical issue that could arise in the future. But, you can share what’s important to you. Your philosophy of life. What makes life worth living? Define your line in the sand. With that knowledge, your family and friends can serve you well when needed. The kitchen table chat allows for discussion, debate, and clarification. Once done, document the results of the conversation using the legally recognized forms of your state.

The kitchen table chat and advance directives are not about how you choose to die. Rather, end-of-life discussions and advance directives provide the opportunity to articulate how you choose to live. Find the courage to confront your fears about death and dying. Realize the risk assumed by procrastinating. Generate a sense of urgency within your family to discuss how each person chooses to live. Ultimately, it’s the greatest gift you will ever give your family and friends-and yourself. This is the chance of a lifetime. Don’t miss it!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at and we will be in touch soon!


About AARP Colorado
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.