Background Researchers have long been interested in the physiological and psychological aspects of wellbeing. Studies have found that Virtual Reality (VR) therapy, using computer generated environments and avatars, can have positive effects in relieving pain in some patient populations and can be used to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To date, there is little published research about the physical and psychological impact of VR therapy using real life environments/settings and the potential for VR to be used effectively in palliative care has not been fully investigated.
Method Participants are given a single VR therapy experience lasting no more than 4 min, once a week, for 4 weeks. Quantitative data is obtained through the comparative analysis of pre- and post-session Edmonton Symptom Assessment System: Revised (ESAS-R) scores and qualitative data is gathered through set interviews completed after each VR therapy.
Results Preliminary data evidences a 53% mean reduction in pain symptoms, 66% mean reduction in fatigue, 60% mean reduction in drowsiness, 50% mean reduction of SOB, 52% mean reduction in depression, and 62% mean reduction in anxiety with an overall 49% mean increase in overall wellbeing. Qualitatively, participants spoke about feeling more relaxed and generally ‘happier’ as a result of VR. Additionally participants spoke about VR connecting them to positive memories as well giving them a sense of freedom both from their illness, their symptoms, and life as a patient.
Conclusion Preliminary findings positively demonstrate a reduction of common physiological and psychological palliative care symptoms. Additional participants and VR therapy sessions are planned. Additional positive results will provide robust evidence for VR Therapy to be adopted and used alongside current symptom control measures used in palliative care.
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