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Transported to a new place through virtual reality
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Hospice Virtual Reality

Transported to a new place through virtual reality

By Jessica Pickens on July 2, 2019

There may be something you never got to do, like travel to the Grand Canyon. Or maybe you want to see the beach again.

But traveling while in hospice care is not always an option.

Now, through Spartanburg Regional Hospice and the Foundation, patients can be transported to another place through virtual reality without leaving their bed.

All it takes is a special viewer and a smart phone. The hospice team uses 3D videos to simulate the experience.

“From the Eiffel Tower, to their hometown to the World War II Memorial, the patient is immersed in a different place,” said Kelly Hall, hospice volunteer coordinator. “This can be used as a distraction to help a patient forget about their pain, but also as entertainment or a bucket list item.”

Recently one patient was able to go to Disney World in Florida through virtual reality.

“He hadn't been to Disney World since 1979 and wanted to see how it had changed,” said Katie Harbin, chaplain and bereavement counselor. “He was able to experience Disney as part of the crowd.”

Virtual reality is a simple process. The smart phone is slipped into a viewer, purchased by the Spartanburg Regional Foundation. The video moves with the patient as they look from side to side or move forward.

While virtual reality can be fun for the patient, it brings more than entertainment.

“Patients experience decreased levels of stress, and they may be experiencing joy for the first time in a long time,” said Andrew Fisher, chaplain and bereavement counselor. “For patients who are bedbound, it makes them feel like they aren't stuck in their bed for once.”

Harbin counsels patients in guided imagery, where they close their eyes and think of positive images and places as a form of therapy to bring them peace. Virtual reality takes this a step further.

“This allows patients to take time away from reality,” Harbin says. “It's another way to bring them peace.”

The idea of virtual reality came from a conversation Fisher had with a chaplain at another hospice program.

“When people become ill, their lives become their illness,” Fisher said. “This is one way we are allowing them to take their lives back.”