Although death is a universal, natural human experience, there is a lack of general education and knowledge about the topic, in part because of fear and anxiety associated with the subject. This lack of death literacy in the general public can make the end of life experience difficult for patients and their caregivers, especially when dying occurs in a non-medicalized home setting. There is research that suggests that art can serve as a means for educating the public. The purpose of this project was to plan and design an art installation to aid in educating people about the natural dying process. In planning the installation, I examined the experiences of home hospice patients who received their care in a local, community-run residential home. In this setting, volunteer caregivers and hospice staff recorded all care decisions. I reviewed the narratives from these former patients’ files and identified themes that were common such as concerns about prognosis, family visits, challenges managing symptoms and aspects of the dying process. There were also records that captured positive experiences and described patients enjoying simple pleasures of life through food, music, movies, visits with pets etc... I selected “relics” that I felt were meaningful but also enlightening about the dying process and created the plans and design for an interactive exhibit where the audience could see these narratives but also physically manipulate windows to these narratives to better understand life’s final journey.
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