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Building scale and well-being in a hospice: a qualitative exploration


Objective This study explored how built space plays out in palliative care, focusing on spatial aspects that could support or hamper patients’, relatives’ and caregivers’ well-being.

Methods This study was conducted in a freestanding small-scale hospice combining a residential part for eight guests with a day-care part for groups of about five persons. Observations were combined with semistructured, individual interviews with eight guests (sometimes accompanied by relatives) and three focus-group interviews with staff, volunteers and relatives. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed based on the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven.

Results The most important spatial aspects that impact on physical and social well-being in palliative care turned out to be the building scale and physical proximity. The small-scale setting counters the (often negative) association of palliative care with hospital environments. When the medical condition of the guest allows, it makes communal or outdoor spaces reachable, which enhances emotional and social well-being. In worse conditions, it still makes that care and nature are always nearby. The compactness of communal spaces intensifies social contacts.

Conclusions The building scale and physical proximity play out in the relationship between the building and its surroundings, between the residential and the day-care parts and among people within the building. Future research could investigate to what extent these spatial aspects are relevant in more conventional palliative care units or even in general hospital wards.

  • hospice care
  • quality of life

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.

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