As they battle terminal illnesses, patients at a hospice in Leicester are using virtual reality to break out of the restrictions placed upon them by their conditions and experience life again. A special film has been commissioned for the LOROS Hospice 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.
By simply wearing the virtual reality glasses, patients are can be 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 Lee. “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,” Knight added.
LOROS is now looking at enhancing patient experiences both regionally and nationally, by commissioning a portfolio of ‘experience’ films, like walking on a beach for example, that other hospices and care providers will be able to access.