Virtual Reality provides new possibilities for hospice patients

  • by colin
  • December 2, 2019

This article is part of the European Association of Palliative Care feed. The use of Virtual Reality (VR) as a calming tool has been docmented in Dementia care. I would be interested to hear from you if you know of any use of VR technology in palliative care in NSW:

Ann Morris from Margate is almost 79 years old. She attends the Therapy Centre at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet, where she is benefitting from new Virtual Reality (VR) technology recently introduced for hospice patients.

Ann was referred to the Wellbeing Programme at Pilgrims Hospices by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) after becoming unwell in December 2018. Having had fluid drawn from her lungs, further tests and a biopsy taken at Guy’s Hospital in London, she was diagnosed with lung cancer contracted from asbestos. Although Ann never worked with asbestos, her husband Ged worked within foundries and it is thought she could have been in contact with it through washing his clothing. Ged was cared for at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet three years ago; his condition was not asbestos-related.

Ann spoke affectionately of the care that her husband received at the hospice.

Ann has been attending the Wellbeing Programme weekly since summer. She enjoys her time with the care team who offer support, friendship and therapy sessions, all of which are helping her to maintain health and mobility.

VR is a new addition to the Wellbeing Programme that patients like Ann are benefitting from. Ann said: “The Occupational Therapy team asked me what I’d like to do. I said ‘Go on an exotic holiday!’ and VR helped me to do this. It has made such a difference to me.”

Ann has had three VR experiences so far: an underwater adventure, a wildlife safari with David Attenborough and a visit to the African planes, where she was surrounded with beautiful African elephants and watched magnificent rhinos feeding. Each VR video is around seven minutes in length, giving the individual a close-up and personal experience.

“This is a most relaxing experience; coming along to the Therapy Centre is helping me to cope with my condition. I really appreciate my time here.” Ann

Ann said: “This is a most relaxing experience; coming along to the Therapy Centre is helping me to cope with my condition. I really appreciate my time here. I attend once a week and enjoy the company of others.

“I also have a massage and some reiki.

“Lunch is always a treat and the crafting sessions give me an opportunity to do things that I could try at home. I’ve been making gift cards and decorations recently. I also thoroughly enjoy a team match of bocce in the afternoon before a cup of tea and a generous lift home from the Therapy Centre volunteer drivers.”

She continued: “I’m very lucky. I have two sons and one daughter all close by, and one daughter living up in the Midlands. I’m very proud to have 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren who regularly pop in to spend time with me and keep me active and positive.”

Kristy Wells, Occupational Therapist Assistant at Pilgrims Hospices, said: “VR technology is a wonderful way to help patients relax. We use it on the ward and in patients’ homes, it’s so flexible.”

Photo: Ann with Kristy Wells, Occupational Therapist Assistant

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