We believe that sensory experiences have the power to bring us comfort through neural networks that reach our deepest, unconsciously held memories. Jazz music or grains of sand alter experiences of pain by stimulating an atmosphere that invigorates patients with a sense of self and aesthetic beauty. Unfortunately, the rush of decisions around end of life care, the stress of logistical aspects of care for caregivers, and the emphasis on verbal methods of emotional support foster an environment which fails to leverage the powerful ways that aesthetics can empower and heal patients in their final months, days, or hours.
Guided by principles of access and co-creation, we designed an easy to use toolkit of stories, guided prompts, and materials to start an embodied reflection between caregivers and their loved ones.
Since Design for Living and Dying, we have conducted several rounds of testing through our participation in Reimagine, a week-long event series around the End of Life, our own training as End of Life Doulas, and a poster presentation at the 2019 Association for Death Education and Counseling, each of which have revealed new opportunities for the dissemination and development of this work.
Ultimately, we believe the project has the potential to bypass entrenched barriers to discourse between loved ones and to emotional processing at the end of life by facilitating difficult yet critical conversations about the memories and moments that remind us of what bring us life.
How does our sensory experience affect pain at the end of life? How might you change your environment and presence to create a space of sanctuary for you and your loved ones?