Virtual reality

Virtual reality transforming the lives of terminally ill patients

LOROS Hospice has commissioned and produced a special film to give terminally ill patients whose lives have become restricted due to their illness, the chance to see the world from the comfort of their chair or bed.

Patient John Lee tries out virtual reality glasses

By simply wearing the virtual reality glasses, patients are ‘virtually transported’ to a completely different location, one that patients recognise and are then able to reminisce with friends and families.

John Lee, 70, who has Motor Neurone Disease (MND), was the first patient at LOROS to try out the glasses.

“You soon relax, it’s just like you’re there, I loved it” he said, as he experienced ‘walking through’ Leicester’s Bradgate Park.

“I nearly waved at somebody, as they walked past.”

As John turned his head, the camera followed, making him feel like he was actually at Bradgate Park with a 360 degree view and activity all around him.

“Since being diagnosed with MND, we can get out but I can’t spend a lot of time out of the wheelchair, so being able to have these experiences through the glasses is really good,” added John.

“It’s almost as good as the real thing.”

With patient’s well being in mind, the films are an important therapeutic tool, relaxing those that watch as they are ‘taken away’ to a familiar environment.

LOROS CEO John Knight said: “This is a really exciting project for us, and I believe we are the first Hospice in the country to have specifically commissioned such a film as a therapeutic tool using a familiar local setting.

“Research suggests that the brain accepts the virtual world within 20 seconds after which the experience becomes all absorbing.

“We recognise that some of our patients are often restricted to where they can go due to their illness, so we wanted to help give them the opportunity to still enjoy life wider than their restrictions allow, through virtual reality.

“To see the response from one of our patients, John, was quite overwhelming. You could really see how much it meant to him to be able to experience walking through Bradgate Park, something he never thought he would be able to ever experience again after being diagnosed.”

LOROS has been working with a specialist Virtual Reality production company since last year, and are planning to commission a number of further films, to create a library of valuable experiences for patients to access and enjoy.

The virtual reality project was funded by the generosity of the TS Shipman Trust.

“As the project progresses, we really hope that other patients, not just those at LOROS, reap the benefits of our virtual reality films too as they get to share such magical experiences,” John added.

LOROS is now looking at enhancing patients' experiences both regionally and nationally, by commissioning a portfolio of ‘experience’ films and now has a wonderful peaceful beach experience filmed at the Gower Peninsular in Wales. In addition there is a virtual tour of LOROS Hospice with Monica Winfield, a past BBC Radio presenter kindly lending her voice to escort all those viewing the film around LOROS Hospice. The aim of this is to reduce any anxiety or concerns that patients may have at the prospect of visiting LOROS Hospice for the first time.

The Hospice VR Tour will also be perfect to give supporters an insight into life at LOROS without having to physically come to the Hospice. It is always nice to have a good understanding of the charity that is being supported especially when our local corporate and community supporters do not always get the opportunity to visit in person. Although this tour is specific to LOROS Hospice it really does give a good insight into Hospice life generally.

The reactions from patients who have experienced our films has been very positive with all so far reporting a more relaxed and calm feeling afterwards. An evaluation study is underway to gather more evidence of patient reactions to virtual reality experiences and we hope to give more patients, like John, the opportunity to escape to a relaxing place of their choice.

Looking ahead, we have already partnered up with Cransley Hospice and Cynthia Spencer Hospice and have a few more hospices and organisations interested in becoming partners which is fantastic. This will mean we can produce more experiences for our patients and share the cost. The next film commissioned, with the agreement of our partners is Chatsworth House and we welcome other organisations to contact us to find out more about the benefits from using virtual reality films with patients and to have a say in the future library of films produced.

If you are interested in hearing more about the project, becoming a project partner or your organisation will benefit from using the virtual reality films, contact info@loros.co.uk