When we think of virtual reality, we usually picture a teenager playing video games. But virtual reality is becoming increasingly common in healthcare. Through the use of a virtual reality headset and other equipment, people are given the impression that they are in another 3-dimensional world. Check out the ways virtual reality is being developed to enhance the lives of nursing home residents:
Virtual reality helps residents cope with chronic pain by temporarily taking them to a happy, peaceful place. In addition, it provides relief by guiding residents through relaxation exercises and meditations. Virtual reality can also provide distraction during painful procedures like dressing changes. It has been found to be especially helpful for amputees who are coping with phantom pain.
Residents recovering from traumatic brain injuries or strokes are able to practice activities of daily living through virtual reality. Tasks such as preparing a meal can be set up in stages of increasing complexity as the resident improves. Feedback from the virtual reality program lets the resident see their progress and keeps them motivated.
Therapeutic exercises are a lot more fun and less monotonous when done through virtual reality. As a result, residents are motivated to stick with their rehab programs longer. Virtual reality also helps residents learn to improve their balance, thereby reducing the frequency of falls.
Virtual reality provides peaceful scenes and calming sounds that may ease anxiety and depression in people affected by dementia. It is believed that this therapy works by immersing the resident in a positive experience while taking away negative distractions. The positive effects often persist for hours after the virtual reality headset is removed.
Virtual reality helps alleviate loneliness and boredom. Residents are transported to beautiful locations around the world that they’ve never had an opportunity to visit. It also takes them to activities such as museum exhibits, concerts, or sporting events. Residents can travel back to places they’ve been to in the past—favorite vacation spots or their old neighborhood. They can even attend an important event like a family wedding without actually being there.
Nurses and other health care workers can practice procedures using virtual reality. This is safer and more convenient than practicing on a real resident. Training can be individualized to each person’s skill level.
Have you ever experienced virtual reality? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
**Update: After I published this post, someone shared a lovely video showing how virtual reality is used in a hospice in Toronto. Please watch it here. (There’s a bit of advertising at the beginning, but it’s worth waiting to see the film.)