Cancer—the disease is synonymous with fear, denial, stress, and hope.
Regarded as one of the most challenging diseases with which to come to grips, cancer is emotionally and physically exhausting for both patients and their families––from radiation therapy to intravenous infusions and everything in between. The day-to-day struggle of living with cancer can be overwhelming.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer doesn’t discriminate. More than 15.5 million Americans (nearly 40%) are diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.
When actively receiving treatment, oncology patients seek support and peace-of-mind from family, caregivers, and fellow patients. Each patient is an individual with his/her own emotional and physical needs, which makes designing oncology facilities demanding.
For this reason, it’s necessary for oncology facilities to be thoughtfully designed to take both community and privacy into consideration.
Communal spaces for improved support systems
An individual’s life is changed the moment he or she is diagnosed.
It might not sink in at first, but the recently-diagnosed are about to embark upon a potentially harrowing journey. This path will prompt loved ones––friends and family alike—to attempt to provide support. But can people genuinely offer support if they haven’t gone through a similar experience themselves?
Community has long been considered an ideal source of support for oncology patients. It enables individuals to come together in ways that only they can––to swap stories, provide tips and insight, lend words of encouragement, be empathetic with one another, and more.
But community doesn’t need to be relegated to support groups. Instead, community can be found in the oncology facilities themselves.
It’s up to designers to find creative ways to design spaces that encourage socialization and communal interaction, such as kitchens, lobbies, gardens, and other spaces that can be shared by fellow patients (and family members) to facilitate a sense of camaraderie, which inherently lends itself to support.
For example, the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, was designed to include a 60-foot-long “welcome wall” that greets patients, families, and guests. It guides them from the lobby to one of two treatment wings and a decentralized-care team station adjacent to treatment and examination rooms.
The welcome wall guides patients past a variety of potential stops, including several inviting waiting areas. Since young adult cancer patients have different emotional and social needs, which can often be overlooked, the Angie Fowler design gives them their own space that includes a variety of entertainment options to take a break alone or with peers.
The wall makes the patients at Angie Fowler feel comfortable from the moment they enter. It also helps ensure a sense of community from the get-go to let patients know that they’re not alone in their journey.
Respites for peace-of-mind
While some oncology patients find mutual support beneficial, many can find it overwhelming and would prefer to be alone finding comfort in privacy. Plus, even the most outgoing of individuals requires the occasional respite to decompress following a challenging treatment.