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Easing Pain and Despair with Palliative VR Therapy

VR therapy alleviates pain and despair in palliative care

People getting palliative care are dealing with serious, incurable diseases. On a daily basis, people may face excruciating physical, psychological, and emotional pain.

Palliative care providers work hard to guarantee their patients’ comfort and provide strong psychological support. While meaningful activities might be useful, patients are often unable to pursue their actual hobbies, such as travel.

Representatives from The Conversation questioned if virtual reality (VR) may be useful in this context. To collect data, they performed three 20-minute virtual reality sessions with sixteen hospice patients in an acute hospital, asking them about their sentiments before and after each session.

According to a new study published in the BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care journal, more than half of participants reported clinically significant reductions in symptoms such as pain and melancholy after a 20-minute virtual reality session.

Crucially, a few others reported that it didn’t work or made them feel unwell. This highlights the need to use virtual reality in hospice care with compassion.

Virtual reality (VR) delivers an immersive, 3D experience using a headset, which is often complemented with realistic sound effects or songs. This virtual environment has the potential to seem incredibly realistic.

While VR use in palliative care has been investigated before, the researcher’s primary goal was to determine whether or not customised VR sessions were associated with substantial improvements in pain and depressive symptomatology.

With personalised virtual reality, each user is exposed to content that is personally meaningful to them. The reporters interviewed the patients before their sessions to determine their interests and create a VR experience tailored to them. This was done rather than offering consumers the choice of choosing between, say, a VR experience set in a forest or a beach.

One participant indicated interest in a virtual reality experience that would allow them to explore Paris, for example. Some UK-born immigrants to Australia desired virtual reality experiences that took them back to their origins. They provided a virtual reality game to someone who was a major Star Wars fan.

During the study, scientists used the famous Meta Quest 2 headgear to invite sixteen hospice patients from a critical care unit at a South Australian facility to participate in three different VR sessions.

The participants wore the headgear for around 20 minutes every session, and their ages ranged from 48 to 87. YouTube VR and Wander were the primary VR applications used. Before and after each session, the journalists asked everyone about their mental and physical symptoms. Wander was one of the apps they used throughout the investigation.

It was revealed that participants’ subjective feelings of physical and emotional distress, such as depression, may be immediately decreased after only twenty minutes of VR exposure. After only one session, more than half of the individuals who took part reported feeling much better. Two of the three participants experienced relief after only one session.

While VR offered numerous benefits, not everyone could completely benefit from it. After the virtual reality sessions, some people reported feeling worse.

One person reported feeling nauseated after using the VR, while another said the helmet was too heavy on their cheeks.

As of today, there is strong evidence that virtual reality (VR) may be an effective palliative care therapy for certain patients, but not all.

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