How to do it...Design

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1 Design and furnish hospice spaces to be comfortable, accommodating and inviting for family, friends and visitors, says Jodi Fazio, director of marketing for Kwalu, a furniture supplier for the senior living sector.

“Include ergonomic sofas and benches where visitors and family can sit next to one another and give or get a hug without getting up, comfortable sleeper beds, and large dining tables for family to share a special meal,” she says.

Create a “sense of community and provide space for visitors and community members to gather for memorial services, remembrances, outreach events and volunteer supports,” adds Scott Kistler, MHA, vice president for organizational advancement, The Center for Leadership at Suncoast Hospice, a Clearwater, FL-based not-for-profit community provider.

And don't overlook “discreet, ample parking that provides easy access for family” and a small refreshment area in the room, adds Kristy Yang, Interior Design Team lead, Direct Supply Aptura.

2 Imbue a serene, healing environment that incorporates nature, says Kathleen M. Goff, associate, RLPS Architects. These kinds of spaces allow opportunities to meditate and reflect.

“There should be abundant and deliberate connections to gardens, pathways, porches, water features and shelter to support the need for contemplation,” Goff says. “Nature has a calming effect on a restless mind, whether experienced through dappled sunlight, a gentle breeze, the fragrance of flowers or the sound of water.”

Adds Kistler, “Appeal to all five senses through the use of large windows, gardens, water fountains, soothing spas, natural light, color, texture, music, comfort foods and scent, and consider the use of palliative arts such as music therapy, art therapy, pet therapy, massage therapy, Reiki or aromatherapy.”

Yang suggests “quiet spaces for stress relief and contemplation, such as a chapel, meditation room or small nooks carved out along the corridor.”

3 There's no place like home, and hospice spaces should remind residents and loved ones of the place they cherish most, says Savannah Sachtschale, Direct Supply Aptura's Interior Design intern. 

The environment should reflect “the warmth and the qualities of home, and great care and effort must be taken to de-institutionalize the hospice center so the first and last impression for friends and family is a positive memory,” adds Goff.

Additionally, carpet can make a space reminiscent of being at home, adding a sense of security, warmth, and comfort, says Paul Young, director, Healthcare Marketing, Shaw Industries Group.

4 Family-centered spaces should include areas inside and outside of the resident's room for sleeping, eating and talking, and supervised places for children to play, Yang says.

Kistler advises to “pay attention to scale. Design residential-looking kitchen and living room space for families to gather together and support one another … and keep that space close to patient rooms so families don't feel that they are too far away from their loved ones.”

5 Last but perhaps most important, hospice spaces ultimately should convey dignity and respect.

“Visitors will come from all walks of life with a wide range of perspectives, opinions and philosophies,” says Goff.
Kistler recommends hospices include “a sacred sanctuary space for quiet contemplation and prayer. Keep the room lit, with calming music playing to invite patients and families to use the sanctuary any time of the day or night.”

People nearing the end of life deserve all the comfort and respect possible, experts agreed.

Mistakes to avoid

*Cramped, uninviting surroundings. Hospice spaces should be comfortable, and accommodating, and should provide separate areas for eating, talking, playing and reflecting.

*Noise and artificial light. Incorporate natural light and other surroundings to promote a sense of calm and serenity.

*Any reminders of a hospital. Create a homelike environment that masks the coldness of clinical care.

*Overlooking privacy and dignity concerns. Respect all walks of life and religion.