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A game of end-of-life and death

Hello end-of-life game

“In order to provide you with the best possible care, what three medical facts should your doctor know about you?”

Thought-provoking posers like this are all part of Hello, a new, end-of-life conversation game that provides a solution to talk about serious things in an engaging, fun way.

It’s important to encourage end-of-life conversations, so your loved ones are aware of how you would like things to be handled towards the end of your life. Yet the majority of Americans have not yet considered end-of-life planning and it can be a difficult conversation to begin. Recent findings from the National Funeral Directors Association revealed two-thirds of Americans think telling loved ones about end of life plans and funeral wishes is important – but only 21 per cent have actually sat down and had that talk.

Considering end of life matters inspired Philadelphia-based Common Practice to develop Hello, a game that encourages you to talk to your family about what matters most to you.

The $24.95 game, which was originally named My Gift of Grace, sold 10,000 copies in its original format, which has since been updated so that people of no religious faith can feel included in the conversation.

“We wanted a name that signals what the game is all about,” says Common Practice. “Starting conversations in a nonthreatening way. So we’re calling it Hello.”

Behind Common Practice are Jethro Heiko and Nick Jehlen, who have been designing tools and campaigns for social change since 1995. The idea of their question and answer game is to sit around the table with family or friends and look into the future together. There are lots of questions provided to inspire deep thought, conversation and some laughter.

  • What music do you want to be listening to on your last day alive?

  • Who haven’t you talked to in more than six months that you would want to talk to before you died?

  • If you needed help going to the bathroom today, who would you ask to help you?

Players aged 13 years old and up can also bestow ‘thank you’ chips to those they feel have opened up and shared in meaningful ways. There are lots of hints and tips in the instruction manual, as you and family or friends begin to play. Common Practice has also developed an event kit version of the game, to inspire community get-togethers and death positive conversations.

In a study by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, people with chronic illness and their caregivers played Hello. Three months later, the researchers called each participant to follow up and found that 75 per cent of them had gone on to complete some form of advance care planning. Some had looked into hospice care, while others had considered taking out life insurance, or creating an advance healthcare directive.

These findings have been published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, as part of the University’s ongoing research into how playing Hello can encourage people to begin advance care planning and decision-making.

Previous studies have looked at whether people enjoy playing the game and if it encourages meaningful conversations. Dr. Lauren J. Van Scoy, an assistant professor of medicine and humanities in the Penn State College of Medicine, says they wanted to continue to explore if this resulted in people actually changing their behavior and engaging in advance care planning.

“Our findings suggest that not only is the game a positive experience, but it also helps motivate players to engage in advance care planning behaviors,” she said.

“I’m pleased that consistently, across three separate studies, we’ve seen that people go on to engage in advance care planning after playing the game.”

Although not always easy to think about, end-of-life planning can provide comfort and reassurance when the time comes and, in some cases, lower healthcare costs. Read more about the important end of life decisions you may want to consider, to provide you and your family with greater peace of mind.