Having worked with hospitals and within healthcare environments for over 10 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to transform wards up and down the country, creating better spaces to get better patients of all ages and frequently for children and young adults. But working in such environments, and from our own personal experience, we know that not every patient is on a journey back to health, some are on a different kind of journey.
While many of the wards we’ve worked to transform are designed to help children and young adults as they regain their health, we’ve also worked with a number of hospitals to create supportive spaces for those who are receiving palliative care. These rooms and spaces are designed to make this difficult time that little bit more comfortable for everyone involved.
Why we need to create the best possible environment for young people at the end of their life.
When children and young adults are reaching the end of their life there are, of course, an abundance of emotions involved and feelings to consider, from the patient themselves and those that are closest to them too. At the point when medicine can no longer offer a cure, the primary concern often centres around how to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. While medicine can go so far towards this cause as well, the patient’s surroundings can play a hugely important role.
For most of us, the idea of a ‘good death’ is one where we’re surrounded by our family, free of pain, worries and stress as far as is possible. This is true for young patients too. Creating a private, peaceful space, away from the hustle and bustle, and sights and sounds of a typically busy hospital ward will allow patients to spend their last precious hours with their loved ones, unrestricted by visiting hours and somewhere where they can concentrate wholly on their time together.
And, then, of course, it’s important to consider the feelings of the parents and family who are going through some of the most difficult days of their lives themselves; ones that they’ll never forget. Creating a space where they are free to focus on their final chance to spend time with their son or daughter, grandchild, brother, sister or other loved one gives them the opportunity to create memories that are free from the usual distractions of a clinical setting, steering their focus to where it’s most important.
How can we create a good palliative care environment?
When we’re asked to create an environment that is supportive of patients coming to the end of their lives, particularly young patients, there’s a variety of different elements that come together to create a space that can support both them and the family that are on the journey with them.
More often than not, when we walk into a paediatric ward, the walls are filled with bright colours that are placed there with the intention of being cheery and welcoming. Even for patients who aren’t in palliative care, these can have the opposite effect and be alarming and stressful, particularly when primary colours like red, which is often with danger, are used.
In contrast, colour psychology is one of the first things we consider when we’re designing a space that can be used for end of life care. A more muted palette, featuring colours like pastel blues and greens, can help to create a calmer, welcoming and more reassuring place for both patients and their families.
Providing suitable places for parents to stay
Young patients receiving palliative care will usually want mum, dad, or whoever is closest to them, close by and parents and loved ones will often want to be close by too. We know how important this is to everyone involved and recognise the need for parents to have a suitable place to stay.
Bespoke items, such as fitted day beds, can provide seating for up to 5 visitors during the day and becomes a comfortable bed for those who stay overnight. Our parent bed also offers internal storage which can take away the worry of packing and unpacking overnight bags, giving parents more time to spend with their children when they need it the most.
Replacing the clinical feel with comfort
One of the most prominent features of most hospitals is the medical equipment that surrounds patient beds. While we understand that importance of a palliative care space functioning clinically, when the medical need of the patient is comfort, we believe that the environment should support this too.
By creating a room where the bedhead services blend seamlessly into the design features, and there is ample space to store medical equipment out of sight when it’s not in use, we can help take the focus of the room away from its clinical function and turn it instead to the comforting sanctuary it should be for everyone who uses it.
Creating a space that is easy to forget
While this may seem counterintuitive at first, one of the main things that comes up in discussion when we speak to bereaved parents about the ideal environment for young patients at the end of their life is that the room should be easy to forget.
It goes without saying that parents will never forget those final days spent with their child, or where they spent them, but the space where those memories were made shouldn’t be the focus and it shouldn’t be filled with details that will always be associated with the experience, either.
By using WallGlamour that features abstract imagery and a neutral and natural colour palette, we can create a space that is focused on the most important thing within it: the patients, not on the what’s on the walls.
As important as the journey back to health is for some patients, the end of the journey that some will face is just as important and, as such, the place where they spend this final part of their life needs to be just as supportive to their needs.
Creating a tranquil, calming yet unmemorable space can help patients through this difficult time and, when considering the designs for spaces that they will spend their time in, our focus is always on what we can do to provide as much comfort and reassurance to them as we can.
If you’d like more information on the work we’ve done to create better spaces for end-of-life care, or you’d like to find out how we can help your hospital, please get in touch.