Can Playing an End-of-Life Conversation Game Motivate People to Engage in Advance Care Planning?

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Advance care planning (ACP) involves several behaviors that individuals undertake to prepare for future medical care should they lose decision-making capacity. The goal of this study was to assess whether playing a conversation game could motivate participants to engage in ACP.


Sixty-eight English-speaking, adult volunteers (n = 17 games) from communities around Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Lexington, Kentucky, played a conversation card game about end-of-life issues. Readiness to engage in 4 ACP behaviors was measured by a validated questionnaire (based on the transtheoretical model) immediately before and 3 months postgame and a semistructured phone interview. These behaviors were (1) completing a living will; (2) completing a health-care proxy; (3) discussing end-of-life wishes with loved ones; and (4) discussing quality versus quantity of life with loved ones.


Participants’ (n = 68) mean age was 51.3 years (standard deviation = 0.7, range: 22-88); 94% of the participants were caucasian and 67% were female. Seventy-eight percent of the participants engaged in ACP behaviors within 3 months of playing the game (eg, updating documents, discussing end-of-life issues). Furthermore, 73% of the participants progressed in stage of change (ie, readiness) to perform at least 1 of the 4 behaviors. Scores on measures of decisional balance and processes of change increased significantly by 3 months postintervention.


This pilot study found that individuals who played a conversation game had high rates of performing ACP behaviors within 3 months. These findings suggest that using a game format may be a useful way to motivate people to perform important ACP behaviors.

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