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Hospice patients using VR technology

By Jordan Reynolds | Rowley Regis | News | Published:

Patients in a Sandwell hospice can now use virtual reality technology to travel to places they cannot physically.

Daphne Barnes

As part of the work being done at Rowley Regis Hospital’s Heart of Sandwell Day Hospice, the team has acquired two standalone Oculus Go headsets for its patients to help them ‘leave’ the confines of the hospice to travel to places they hold dear.

The headset can also be used for relaxation sessions, utilising both VR programs and 360-degree video experiences to help manage any anxiety or sleep problems, and helping them achieve many of their day hospice goals.

It has also helped conquer some very long standing fears, as one member of the hospice revealed.

“It’s wonderful,” said patient Daphne Barnes. “I’ve always been terrified of water from when I was about five or six-years-old, but when I was using the VR I had no fear.

"Even though it seemed to cover me I could still get my head above the water, I could see the fish swimming in the water around me, I could see the coral, I could see the islands and the sky. It was so lovely – I just can’t find the words to describe it.”

Daphne’s experience came after trying VR experience ‘David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive’, which sees the 92-year-old broadcaster examine life found in the natural wonder off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Other experiences on the hospice headsets at this time include encounters with dinosaurs, trips down nature trails and visits to far flung locations around the world.

Claire Roach, an occupational therapist working with the hospice, said: “We’ve decided to use virtual reality to help our patients with advanced care planning and also to improve their quality of life and general wellbeing.

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"So, we’re looking at issues such as managing anxiety and helping them achieve long held goals – say, if they wanted to go to a specific country or experience something they’d otherwise be unable to. With VR that closed door is opened for them again.”

She added: “Areas such as pain management, or using it to help relax patients who are distressed, helping treat phobias and trauma, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I see the future of VR in healthcare as something that is very important and I think there’s scope for a lot of development there.”

For now it is something the members of the hospice can enjoy and talk about – even encouraging staff and visitors to give the new technology a try.

Daphne even says her experience means she’s got something more she can discuss with her grandson who uses VR to play videogames. However, as keen as she is to take in more trips beyond the hospice walls it’s what it has done for her outside of entertainment that she is most in awe of.

She summed up: “I would recommend it to anyone. It’s taken away my fear, and I’ve been afraid of that for a very long time.”

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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