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A designer’s guide to improving end-of-life care.

The world’s population is aging. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2050, the proportion of people 60 years or older in the world will have doubled, from 11% in 2000 to 22% (2 billion people) in 2050. This makes services for the elderly, like hospice care, which seeks to ease the pain (physical and emotional) of terminally ill patients and their families in their last days, even more important.

The problem is, we tend to avoid talking about death and dying, and people don’t always make plans in advance for end-of-life care. And as it stands, today’s hospice care system can be can be impersonal, under-resourced and under-staffed, and plagued with communication issues between care workers, patients, and families. In some cases, the people who provide palliative care are also paid criminally low wages. In the U.S., home hospice care work only recently stopped being classified as “companionship,” meaning workers didn’t qualify for federal labor protections.


Singapore- and Barcelona-based health care design consultancy fuelfor spent nine months researching hospice care and its issues in Singapore, where the designers found hospice to be an “invisible and avoided service.” Commissioned by the Lien Foundation, a Singapore-based philanthropy, and the ACM Foundation, a funeral service company, fuelfor came up with a handful of strategies to improve the way hospice care is run, both in Singapore and in the rest of the world.

The Hospitable Hospice handbook (which won a 2014 International Design Excellence Award) redesigns not only the look and function of hospice care facilities, but also how hospice workers communicate with each other, how people learn about and experience the hospice process, and how people pay for care. Here are seven of their suggestions for better care:

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99-Year-Old Lady Sews A Dress A Day For Children In Need 

Lillian Weber, a 99-year-old good Samaritan from Iowa, has spent the last few years sewing a dress a day for the Little Dresses For Africa charity, a Christian organization that distributes dresses to children in need in Africa and elsewhere.

Weber’s goal is to make 1,000 dresses by the time she turns 100 on May 6th. So far, she’s made more than 840. Though she says she could make two a day, she only makes one – but each single dress she makes per day is personalized with careful stitchwork. She hopes that each little girl who receives her dress can take pride in her new garment.

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