Emmanuel Hospice Launches Virtual Reality Program

Categories: Care.

Photo: Katie VanRyn, a social worker with Emmanuel Hospice, with patient Larry King, 77, as he watched old rock and roll footage (a Jerry Lee Lewis concert to be exact) with a VR headset. 

VR Technology Accommodates All Levels of Mobility to Enhance the Patient Experience

Emmanuel Hospice (Grand Rapids, Michigan) has launched a virtual reality program to give patients with limited mobility greater access to experiences beyond the four walls of their room or the confines of a bed.

Using a headset with applications or videos that have been adapted for use with VR technology, social workers can bring a desired experience to the patient, surrounding them with the visuals and sounds of almost any chosen environment.

“The capabilities of virtual reality speak quite literally to our philosophy of putting care back into the patient’s hands,” said Katie VanRyn, a social worker with Emmanuel Hospice. “As a person-centered hospice care provider, we always start by asking our patients how they want to live. When it comes VR, not even the sky is the limit.”

With the technology, patients have the opportunity to return to places of emotional significance to relive fond memories and go somewhere they have never been before. Emmanuel Hospice is the only hospice care provider in the Lower Peninsula to offer a virtual reality program.

“We’ve already been able to use the technology to fulfill several patient wishes,” VanRyn said. “Upon request, we’ve taken a patient on a virtual trip to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and another to Ireland. Some patients have wanted to see monuments like the colosseum and other great works of art around the world. One gentleman just wanted to be in the front row seat at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert.

“We were able to provide all those experiences for our patients thanks to the technology available and trained staff we have on board.”

Virtual reality is available for patients receiving hospice care at a facility or in their home. All social workers are trained on the systems and have VR applications on their phones and iPads, allowing them to use the technology even if they do not have access to an internet connection. Different levels of intensity and adjustments to the vision settings on the headset can be made to meet the needs and interest of each user.

The new program further expands Emmanuel Hospice’s portfolio complementary therapy offerings, which can be used alongside pharmaceutical approaches or as alternatives. In addition of virtual reality, the nonprofit offers essential oils, pet visitors, companionship and journaling sessions, music and massage therapy as well as acupuncture and acupressure.

“It’s important to us to provide a variety of services to fit each patient’s individual needs,” VanRyn said. “We are always looking for opportunities to broaden our options to support care of the mind, body and spirit of our patients at the end of life.

“This cutting-edge equipment is enhancing the patient experience, and we are looking to explore other ways we can provide meaningful end-of-life care for those who may benefit using it.”

About Emmanuel Hospice
Emmanuel Hospice is a faith-based nonprofit provider of compassionate, person-centered hospice care to patients and families in West Michigan. Serving the community since 2013, the organization is a collaborative effort of St. Ann’s, Clark, Porter Hills and Sunset designed to complete the continuum by providing end-of-life care to those inside – and outside – the walls of these organizations.