Hospital Art is Simply a Friend
My mom hands me the keys and gives me instructions to retrieve a pillow from the car. I smooth the wrinkles from my Easter dress, type the exit code into the keypad by the door, and enter the rest of the nursing home. As I walk through the hallways, I decide that the décor of this nursing home is my favorite so far. Each time I am in this building, I look into the dining rooms, bingo rooms, and common areas to see those who have experienced much more life than I have. I watch them with a reverence that keeps me glued to their mannerisms and their wrinkles, each representing a different memory. The rooms are decorated with objects and traditions of decades past. Old sewing machines, typewriters, paintings, pianos—they all line the walls, which emit the soothing classical music that I have grown so used to.
The first time I walked into this building, I asked my mom why these objects were there. I already knew the answer, but such thoughtfulness was something that I wanted confirmed. “They put those things in here to make the patients feel more at home; they’re things they’re all used to.” I was so grateful in this moment, and from every moment on when I passed through the halls, to whoever chose to spend the extra time, thought, and money to place these simple objects in a place where they would have such a large impact.
Hospital art, like the sewing machines and old CDs, is a small gesture that can leave an irreplaceable impression on a patient. A bright painting can lead to a number of positive consequences that can change the course of a patient, doctor, or visitor’s day and outlook. A painting means that someone is reaching out to them, not with their hands, but with their brush. These murals send a message of hope that overrides all communication barriers; they are a reminder of what is beautiful in the world, and an encouraging word when no one else seems to understand. Art cannot give prognoses and it cannot receive bad news. It is simply a friend.
A sense of relief overcame me when I first saw the art in my grandparents’ nursing home; I knew that they were in a good place that cared about their comfort. I want the chance to help provide this feeling to someone else. When a loved-one or even you, yourself, are sick, it is typically a time filled with questions, but art can provide a reliable comfort, as it did for me, that can soothe those around it into having confidence that things will turn out okay. Hospital art cannot be picked up at a pharmacy, it cannot be injected into the skin, and it cannot be bought over the counter, but it is a medicine nonetheless. Art cannot cure diseases, but it can it provides comfort and optimism that pills and syrups cannot.