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VR helps hospice patients to free themselves from their isolation


A hospice patient uses a virtual reality headset.

AT & T

When hospice nurse Laurie McKay arrived at the emergency room, her patient – a man in his late sixties with terminal cancer and now broken hip – said to her, "I knew you would come someday, but today my wife came and I should get on a cruise ship. "

McKay, senior nurse at the Continuum Care Hospice in the San Francisco Bay Area, did not want the couple to miss this last cruise. to Alaska, and she turned to a tool that Continuum had used on his patients – virtual reality.

She made an appointment to visit the couple as soon as they returned home. With the help of Samsung Gear VR headsets and Google Earth VR, she had identified all the ports where the cruise could have stopped, giving the couple 360-degree views of the ocean, waterfalls, and ice caves they may personally own had. McKay also showed the man his present home and port in California, docking with the boat he'd been working on.

"These were experiences he believed he would never be able to finish," McKay said.

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Bucket lists are checked off in VR


While you think of virtual reality as something that is used for games and marketing tricks, it has also found its way into a variety of other industries, including healthcare. According to a March report and data report, the virtual reality health care market alone is set to reach $ 6.91 billion by 2026.

VR could get a bad name as a once-hot technology trend that did not meet expectations, but companies have not given up on it. Facebook released the $ 400 Oculus Quest last month, which CNET Editor Scott Stein described as the best he has tried this year. And virtual reality has made progress outside the consumer world.

The use of VR for hospice care – as a way of creating a larger world for people who have confined themselves to one room or just one bed – is beginning to spread among service providers. It can be a way to tick off items on the bucket list, such as visiting London, swimming with dolphins or even skydiving. It can also complement therapy and counseling and may even help treat pain.


To provide VR to patients last year, Continuum has partnered with Rendever, a company focused on virtual reality for the elderly.

Rendever provided Continuum with headsets and tablets that allow the person performing the session to control the experience. The company has a library of mostly third-party VR experience and a labeling system that helps caregivers know that an app may not be suitable for people with post-traumatic stress disorder or motion sickness or anything like that. In addition, two people can simultaneously experience the same app with separate headsets.

This ability to share experiences is an important factor. Kyle Rand, CEO of Rendever, talked about spreading social isolation among seniors and how difficult it is to make new experiences together when your world has become so tight.

"It's one of the most amazing things you can offer to a family that is going through this really hard time – to give them one last trip," Rand said.

In other parts of the country, hospice workers are busy using virtual reality.

Ben Roby, chaplain at the North Central Ohio hospice and self-proclaimed tech nerd, began working with VR about a year ago, when the Development Director contacted him.

After researching and receiving a scholarship from a local philanthropic organization, Roby opted for a Windows Mixed Reality Headset and a

. Oculus Go .

In the four-and-a-half months he had VR on the field (at this time he does not leave the house without it), Roby told most of the patients who would try to use it again. One patient, a 91-year-old woman, submitted a request for cliff jumping last week.

But Roby not only wanted to seek thrills, find peace or just do cool stuff in the VR, but also helped him bridge some of the more serious conversations patients might have with a chaplain.

Once he showed a woman Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world.

"She took off her goggles and said," How is the sky getting better than that? He said, "As a chaplain, just opening the door for me to talk to her about end-of-life issues."

Beyond Bucket List

Fulfilling a bucket-list element or discussing spiritual matters not the only ways that Hospice Counselors use VR.

In February, AT & T and Vitas Healthcare began investigating how to deal with anxiety and pain by reducing the use of opioids and helping patients stay clearer

Linking virtual reality to pain relief through distraction is nothing new Researchers at the University of Washington used VR to help burn victims find their way through painful dressings more than a decade ago, according to a study by Cedars-Sinai Year 2017 showed that patients using virtual reality as a distraction experienced a 24 percent drop in pain severity. [19659026] Rod Cruz, General Manager of AT & T for Healthcare Industry Solutions, said VR for pain management could be a preferable option "instead of numbing people with opiates and other things to numb pain."

Vitas and AT & T start in California with 15 clinicians who have Magic Leap and Oculus Go headsets. Vitas CIO, Patrick Hale, estimates that hundreds of patients will be using the devices. Out of all these interactions, they hope to have a perspective on the best types of experiences, the ideal length and data on the effects of VR on respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Within six to nine months, Hale wants to develop and modify a therapy program that Vitas can use across the country.

Cruz said access to 5G hotspots for running 4K VR could reduce the delay and enhance the VR experience experience. However, the next generation of cellular technology is only in the early stages of deployment, so the type of coverage required may be years away.

VR Impact

VR Impact May Not Be a Potions Potion – There will be people who do not want to play around with new technology or who are prone to nausea and travel sickness, sometimes associated with delayed virtual reality experiences , For others, bad vision may be a hurdle.

But for those who can use it, their orderlies say it was effective in a way they did not expect .

McKay – the nurse who had planned the cruise ports for the couple who had missed their trip – said the man's wife reported that he told all those who visited him about the VR experience they were making had. And when he died, she even talked about it at his service.

"[He thought] he would just end up in a bed in his house and wait for death," McKay said. "Instead, he found that he was able to live, participate, and find joy every day he received."

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