Virtual reality has been expanding into new settings beyond traditional gaming for many years now.
It seems there’s no end to its uses and applications, and we now see it growing in popularity in the healthcare sphere.
Virtual reality for pain management
VR simulations are proving incredibly useful in wound care.
Changing of dressings and other elements of wound care can be incredibly painful and distressing to the resident.
The resident is provided with a headset and selects a simulation to provide some much-needed distraction.
The treatment of serious burns is also associated with high levels of pain and distress for the patient.
Virtual reality has been applied here in the same way, to distract burn victims during the cleaning and dressing of wounds.
More research is needed to determine just how effective VR is in pain management.
So far, results are promising.
Many residents report not only having felt less pain during the procedure, but the procedure feeling as though it were over quicker.
There is potential here for less reliance on opioid painkillers to manage pain.
Whilst some residents choose underwater scenes, the Forest of Serenity is another particularly popular simulation.
Forest of Serenity was developed by St Giles Hospice as part of their pain management programme.
Narrated by David Attenborough, the immersive experience is designed to decrease reliance on medication.
View the Forest of Serenity video.
Virtual reality for training
On the opposite of the spectrum, virtual reality is also being considered as a learning tool for care staff.
This will enable staff to get practical hands-on training in effective wound care procedures before working with live patients.
In the simulation, staff will be presented with a wound they must identify and select an appropriate treatment for.
Making it even more realistic is the simulations ability to deliver feedback in the form of resistance when a wound is being debrided or a pressure bandage is being applied.
Users must even choose the correct tools and equipment along the way.
If an inappropriate treatment is selected the simulated wound will degenerate or fail to heal.
This hands-on learning environment will provide staff with the immersive experience needed to develop patient care skills as well as a thorough knowledge of wounds.
Simulation results are assessed based on benchmarks of ideal patient care.
Virtual reality for education
Virtual reality is also used to educate people about the realities of what it is like to live with dementia.
A Walk Through Dementia mimics the disorientation, loss of coordination and sensory overload commonly experienced in addition to memory loss.
This video is a powerful tool to instil a greater sense of empathy and understanding in the wider community.
These days virtual reality does not necessarily demand tonnes of cash and infrastructure.
Some programs can be accessed with a smartphone as well as a cardboard headset!
We will be watching with interest as to what becomes possible in the realm of virtual reality in care as technology advances.
Read about technology and innovation in dementia care.