Virtual reality provides comfort to hospice patients

Patients at St. Joseph’s Hospice can now enjoy a wide range of new experiences and activities, including swimming with dolphins, space travel, wildlife encounters, fun fair rides and guided meditation.

The hospice’s virtual reality project has been funded by a £9,200 grant from the National Lottery’s Community Fund.

Nurses and carers at the hospice have also received specialist training on how to use the new equipment so that they can support and guide patients through these calming experiences, which will enrich their lives, improve their wellbeing and ease their stress when they feel anxious or poorly.

The new equipment includes virtual reality headsets for patients, carers and families; a games console with adapted hand straps; a projector so that images of games and films can be projected onto walls or ceilings for patients in bed; plus a screen so that patients can share their experiences with family members.

Specialist IT company, See IT Work, have provided the hospice with support, advice and training on using the new specialist equipment.

Betty (80), from Thornton, was one of the first patients at the hospice to try out the new virtual reality equipment. She said: “It has already given me such a lot of pleasure. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to experience swimming with dolphins and travelling through the stars. I can actually reach out and touch them and see everything all around me.

“Ruth, one of my carers, has taken me to so many beautiful places using the headset and we’ve seen some funny things too. It really helps with my pain and when I am feeling at my worst, during the night, she will bring it for me and it helps me to relax.”

Mike Parr, chief executive of St. Joseph’s Hospice, said: “Our new virtual reality equipment is just incredible as it enables our patients to leave the hospice, travel to exciting places and experience some of the greatest wonders of the world.

“It has really enhanced the care that we can provide as it is another way that we can comfort our patients, support their wellbeing, enrich their lives and even ease their pain and symptoms.

“We also have plans to develop this further in the future by personalising virtual reality experiences for patients, such as filming their favourite walks, events such as a wedding or even just sitting with their family at home.

“We’re very grateful to the National Lottery for awarding us this grant which is having such a significant impact and to Bryan Giddings from See IT Work for all his advice and support.”