"Creating Forever Memories" is a research project, focused on one of the biggest taboos in modern society – the experiences and conditions of terminal patients, prior to imminent death.
Since this is such a complex and emotionally charged topic, there are only a few, select products that have been designed to suit terminal patients' needs.
The end-of-life experience, which can last between days, weeks, and even months is a difficult one for the patients and for their loved ones. Many dilemas often weigh on these patients – How should I best make use of my limited remaining time? How should I say goodbye, and to whom? Do my loved ones seek certain closure? Should we have an open and honest discussion about death?
I conducted broad research, visiting hospices, interviewing terminal patients and their families, exploring an array of different media resources, and meeting with therapists and caregivers, with the intent to identify the most significant challenges incurred during this complex period. I found that the hospice environment had an immense effect on the patients, together with the presence of their families. During this period, the patients and their families create their final memories together, assisted by their presence in a comfortable and pleasant environment.
The appearance and design of the hospice and palliative departments are generic, for many good reasons: strict hygiene rules and restrictions, high turnover of patients, and the necessary usage of a wide range of medical devices. The environment is designed for the caregiver, and not for the patients and their own emotional needs. The patients report that one of the most challenging aspects of being in such an environment is the loss of control over their lives.
In the past few years, there has been a new, fresh attitude toward caregiving, often referred to as ‘the patient point of care’, aiming to implement an appropriate physical and emotional environment for the patients themselves.
Thinking about a product that can help terminal patients, I had a few goals:
The product should personalize the hospice environment.
The product should grant the patient a feeling of control and independence.
The product should be affordable and accessible, easy to sterilize, and should be adaptable, to fit different rooms and equipment.
But, most importantly, the product should create a comfortable space for the patients and for their loved ones to create their last memories together.
How can we develop a product to influence a space?
For the patient to be able to personalize their hospice room, without renovating it, there has to be a product that affects the senses, the perception of the space surrounding them. Out of our five senses – taste and touch are often problematic for terminal patients, due to their sensory sensitivity. Therefore, the product developed targets the remaining three senses – sight, sound, and smell.
The product consists of: A warm and soft lamp, that dims slowly; A speaker playing soft, soothing natural sounds, such as rain, water stream, and animals in the wild; An essential oil humidifier with lavender, rose, and citron oils – the most relaxing and refreshing scents.
The product adjusts easily to attach to different hospital beds, thanks to an adjustable elastic band. It is powered by voice control and is designed for easy sterilization, comprising primarily flat surfaces. Importantly, it is affordable and can be rented from the hospital services.